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Are Parcells, Grosse Pointe North Safe? Parents, Realtors Ask School Officials

Grosse Pointe Shores parents and realtors fired tough questions to Grosse Pointe Schools administrators early Wednesday about safety and security at district's north end middle and high schools.

Parents from North and Parcells told school officials their children didn't always feel safe in the hallways, and realtors shared fears of a tarnished reputation for the schools during a special meeting Wednesday morning in Grosse Pointe Shores.

The new is the city's new panel of residents and realtors tasked with finding ways to promote living in the Shores.

The committee invited the principals of and , as well as Superintendent Tom Harwood, to address issues surrounding the reputation of the two schools. They also were looking for ways to highlight the positive accomplishments in the district.

About 15 residents and city officials sat in on Wednesday's meeting, many firing tough questions about safety and how the reputation of the schools affects the area's real estate market.

Harwood, North principal Tim Bearden and new Parcells principal Cathryn Armstrong said many of the concerns from the community were based on rumors, not facts.

"We have an exemplary school," Bearden said of North. "It is truly an exceptional place."

Bearden said he believes so much in the school system he moved his family to the district. He said Pointers are the school’s toughest critics and do not see the excellence there. "The only place I have to defend Grosse Pointe North is in Grosse Pointe," he said, noting that the North/South rivalry is something akin to MSU/U-M. Ultimately both schools are top notch, he said.

Bearden later shared a list of talking points about the great things going on at North, which he also posted on his school blog.

Committee members and residents asked the officials about rumors of daily fights in the hallways. One North parent said her children feared going down certain hallways, and reported teachers felt intimated by unruly students.

Committee member and area realtor Alex Lucido asked the officials to address the concern about security, which he says directly effects property values in the Shores and the Woods. "We are hearing that there are so many fights going on in the schools. We keep hearing there are fights every day. Girls fighting. Boys fighting," he said.

Parents in the audience said they were worried the schools weren't strict and fast enough to deal with troublemakers.

The school officials dismissed all of this, and said rumors of rampant fighting are false.

"We do not have fights every day. That is not true," Bearden said. He said hallways at North are orderly and when trouble breaks out it is dealt with swiftly. He also said rumors circulating that a teacher was severely injured by a student were unfounded. "A teacher was not put into the hospital by students. This is a rumor." The teacher did have a minor injury while breaking up two students in a scuffle. It was an accident, and the students were punished promptly, he said.

Armstrong said that when there are problems, the school deals with them swiftly, and students know they face consequences. "We are very proactive, and we respond immediately," she said.

Some parents said it's not the big fights that are the problem, rather it’s the general misbehavior in the hallways between classes, with students roughhousing and using foul language.

"To sit and pretend the halls are perfect and there are no problems—I have issues with that," said Parcells parent Leslie Derrick. She said it's the "small potatoes" that concern her—a game where boys routinely smack others in the head in the hallways, or call each other racial slurs and use profanity without recourse.

Derrick said she and parents truly want to help in the hallways, and said they would volunteer to patrol daily if the school wanted.

Bearden said surely there are behavior issues at the schools, but it's not as bad as some in the community fear or the rumors would have it. "We don't pretend there are no issues ever," he said, "We have 1,300 adolescents in one place. We are going to have issues."

Armstrong, who came to Parcells in January, said efforts to improve behavior at the schools and reinforce student conduct have been paying off and she hopes to have data at the end of the school year to support that.

Harwood cautioned residents to consider the facts and not rely on games of "telephone" and the rumor mill when talking about the schools.

Shores Councilman Dan Schulte, however, said there has to be more behavior control at the schools.

"I see kids that are just out of control in the hall.The threshold for tolerance for bad behavior across the board has become too lax. That has to change," he said, "That’s the biggest problem we have. That has to change or the Pointes will go down the drain.”

Bearden said he strongly disagreed. “When students do act inappropriately we do respond,” he said. “Our hallways are safe.”

He then extended an invitation to anyone who wants to visit Grosse Pointe North to contact him. “The invitation I give to everyone is come. I’ll get you a visitor’s badge. … You can walk around anywhere in North High School with a visitor’s badge. … I urge you all to come. It is truly an exceptional place."

GP For Life April 19, 2012 at 11:48 PM
If I may, let me just sum up what our discusion has produced thus far. Some people, a preponderence of whom have some regular level of activity inside the school district, believe there is no problem and everything is great. Other people believe there is a problem and it is being caused by demographic shifts within the district itself. Please forgive the gross overgeneralizations. Well, I am realist and as a realist I believe in data. The data clearly shows a continued drop of our high schools in the rankings. As an aside, I focus on high school rankings because; 1) they're easy and availible and 2) they're are quantitative representations of the effectiveness of the labor and other resources expended from Kindergarten through Senior year. The data says there is a problem and all, if any, corrective measures to date have not ceased to stem this tide of mediocrity. I for one would rather die from thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity. After a careful examination of the chain of events that have lead us to the plunging ratings I conclude there are three possibilities. Possibility one; through ineffectual management of school district resources the quality of the output has dropped. Possibility two; an influx of undereducated students into the district is causing lower performance. Possibility three; a confluence of the above.
GP For Life April 19, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Possibility two seems most likely in my mind. Thusly, I submit to you that in order to remedy the problem we have our school board implement placement exams in order to judge the academic credentials of our transfering students and to place the transfering students into whatever grade level they truly belong. However remedial that grade may be. If we just accept students based on whatever grade level they achieved we are setting the student, and the system, up for failure. The very failure we are witnessing now. We should welcome transfering students to our fine institutions of learning. We as a community have an obligation to properly educate our future members so that they too can educate the next, hopefully to a higher standard. On a personal note; just joking Kristina.
Susan Walton April 20, 2012 at 12:43 AM
I am a proud graduate of GPN, chair of the newly established GPN Distinguished Alumni Committee, resident of Grosse Pointe Shores and so, parent of a future GPN student. What I know for certain is that Grosse Pointe North H.S. provides an education that has created some of the most successful, respected individuals in our community - in our country. Join us on May 14th as we celebrate the excellence of Grosse Pointe North and its' amazing graduates.
Donna Fadanelli April 20, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I hope you didn't get your primary and secondary education at GP schools - "...worst"? - there is no such word!
Kay Felt April 20, 2012 at 11:07 AM
I am the Grosse Pointe Shores Council liaison to the Ambassador Committee. I am delighted with the comments on this week's meeting with Superintendent Harwood and the principals of Parcells and North. The overwhelming response seems to be that people who are regularly in the schools or have children and grandchildren are very satisfied with the quality of education and the attention to disciplinary problems. There can always be improvements. School officials were very responsive to comments. That is information the Ambassador Committee needs to promote the Shores. Thanks to school officials for their prompt response to the invitation to this meeting, for being forthcoming and for their invitation to visit the schools. I hope all who have concerns will do that. The purpose of this meeting was sort perception from reality. We made a good start. Thanks to the Ambassador Committee. They are working on so many fronts to promote the Shores. I am delighted that our schools reflect the diversity of our population. Our daughter, now 35 and in the U.S. foreign service, chose private schools. Her parents thought the major advantage was to have classmates from European, Asian and African ethnicities, and to be in such friends' homes. That diversity is what she saw in our household. It has served her so well. Kudos to North administration for promoting this advantage for our current students' future ability to deal in the real world. Kay Felt
benjamin walker April 20, 2012 at 01:04 PM
As a former teacher at North (15 years, vocal music) and principal at South I feel I have some pretty solid critera for judging what's happening in all our schools. Currently, I am very involved in the North H.S. Distinguished Alumni Program and am in the building often. I always find the halls quiet and orderly during class time and appropiate behavior during class passing time. The building is clean and orderly, teachers are in their rooms doing their jobs and I see great amounts of respect from student to student, teacher to student and student to teacher. I personally have students greet me and ask if they can help me even though they have no idea of who I am. Both GP High Schools are exceptional places of learning and I was, and am, very proud to be associated with them. As adults, we need to ne responsible for being careful of what rumors, etc. we pass on. Visit for yourself, see for yourself and pass on the good and positive things you'll see. Please attend the Distinguished Alumni Program on Monday, May 14th at 7:00 in the PAC at North. See the rich and vibrant history of our graduates and help support and assure present and future students of both schools that the Grosse Pointe community will continue to be there for all students.
GpGr67 April 20, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I don't think anyone is saying North, Parcells or any of our schools are perfect. There are no perfect schools, except for ones that exist in the fond, nostalgic memories certain people seem to have from when they were in Grosse Pointe School in years past. I also am not impressed with the numbers that are being quoted, and I question whether some people even have kids in the schools who seem to be so adamant about citing such evidence. For those of us who have kids in these schools, we're concerned with how OUR kids are doing and whether they're meeting the expectations we have for them in terms of getting good grades, following behavior expectations, being involved and making sure they're preparing themselves to do well on standardized testing. There are kids now, and there were kids in the past who didn't test well, or couldn't handle the academic rigors of our schools, or who are struggling learners. Most of us don't care about whether it affects some aggregate scores or rankings. We have outstanding schools who do not accept mediocrity. We have proof every spring of how fine our schools are by the number of students who get accepted to the very best universities in our state and country - this doesn't happen at mediocre schools.
LMJ April 20, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Well said, Katie. If Katie's articulate, intelligent, classy comment is any indication of what kind of student GPN is turning out ( and I expect it is), I think the only thing we really have to be concerned about as a community is the proliferation of racially motivated hysteria, and an "us and them" mentality.
Jack Wheeler April 20, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I welcome Mr. Walker to this conversation. As a former pupil under his command, for lack of a better word, I can attest that there is no better administrator to be found. You should care about the aggergate scores and rankings of your high schools, especially if you have kids in the system. As colleges become more and more competitive in their admissions process your student will lose an edge that has been held by generations of graduates before them. Do you think a college admissions board weights a 4.0 from a failing school district the same as they do a 4.0 from South or North? (If you said yes, you're wrong.) Additionally, you should care if you own property in the school district. Say you're moving from out of town and you're looking at moving between Bloomfield Hills and GP and you have school-aged children. One community has consistently ranked in the very top tier and the other has slid out of the top tier. Which one do you choose? I know which one I would go with. What do you think the affect on property values will be? Just because you don't like the evidence or, the people who try to pin the statistical evidence to race, don't ignore the data. Ignoring data is the root of all idiocy. I urge you to force the school board to adopt policies to preserve the work of the generations of teachers and students before us. To do otherwise is simply foolish.
Linda Y April 20, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Mike are you saying the problem is the Black Kids from Harper Woods? I hope not!
Judy Gafa April 20, 2012 at 07:48 PM
I appreciate the time the administrators took from thier busy days to meet and address the Grosse Pointe Shores Ambassadors committee. I'd like to also take a moment and address some of the concerns that have been expressed in the comments. Our students safety is a primary concern for the Grosse Pointe Board of Education, as well as the academic performance of our schools and our students. The Board of Education has spent the last 6 months working with administration on a Continuous Improvement Plan that is data driven not only from standardized testing but from various data points. Using this data our admininstration will set yearly goals that are specific not only on the areas of improvement, but how the improvement plan will be implemented, each school principal will then produce their individual building improvement plan. As the school year progresses the Board of Education will be informed of the progress the district is making toward these goals. Academic success is important to each member of the board. On a personal note, my 3 children attend North and Parcells. Like any parent in the district I want the best for my children. I know when my children leave for school in the morning that they are safe, cared for and receiving an excellent education. I'd like to invite the entire community to contact the board with questions, attend a Board meeting, or visit our schools. Sincerely, Judy Gafa President of the Grosse Pointe Board of Education
GpGr67 April 20, 2012 at 07:52 PM
No-one is ignoring data, but using it as the only measure of success (or decline as has been cited on these comments) is equally foolish. You can't measure what our children receive by being educated at North, Parcells or any of our other wonderful schools, purely in numbers. Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, Troy, Northville, Novi, Plymouth-Canton, Rochester and many other top suburban districts have seen the diversity of their schools and communities increase, and have dealt with and embraced it, and that's why those communities generally are thought of as more forward thinking and are often looked at as better places to live when relocating. The fear of increasing diversity and the attitudes about race that are clearly displayed in these comments are what hurts this community, and until people open their minds and start confronting their own personal biases, it won't change.
Jim Steadman April 21, 2012 at 03:39 PM
That's right, it never happened. I'm the Head Engineer at Parcells. If an ambulance were called as the result of a fight, I would have heard about it. I probably would have met and directed the crew to the scene, as well. The Principals, Secretaries, Hall Monitors, Plant Staff (myself and Custodians), P.E. Teachers, and Counselors, all have very effective 2 way radios. Any issues requiring the attention of any of the aforementioned people are communicated and dealt with immediately.
Chris K April 21, 2012 at 08:21 PM
TO GpGr67: DO you have ANY "data" or proof to support your comment which I have copied and pasted below? Can you enlighten us all as to what these communities and school districts have done to "embrace it"and that's why people are moving there? Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, Troy, Northville, Novi, Plymouth-Canton, Rochester and many other top suburban districts have seen the diversity of their schools and communities increase, and have dealt with and embraced it, and that's why those communities generally are thought of as more forward thinking and are often looked at as better places to live when relocating. The fear of increasing diversity and the attitudes about race that are clearly displayed in these comments are what hurts this community, and until people open their minds and start confronting their own personal biases, it won't change.
Carl Anderson April 21, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Where are the facts? Has there ACTUALLY been an increase in violence at North? Has there also been increase at South? How does North compare to South in student conduct? Without such information, any "feelings" about what is happening in the schools is simply unsubstantiated nonsense. Home values have been dropping for years as part of a nationwide housing crisis. Given this, I am particularly interested in learning from these realtors not only what percentage they attribute to North's supposed "declining reputation", but also what data they are using to conclude that this alleged bad reputation is the determining factor in the housing slide. There are a lot of reasons why prices have fallen, and I seriously doubt that the excellent reputation of our schools has had much to do with it. As a community, we must be vigilant to avoid issues, be they racially motivated, or otherwise, that distract us from our real problems. The real issue we face is the decline of the American model of education in an increasingly competitive world. What is needed most is a critical examination how well our schools are preparing students for the world that they will encounter as adults, not rumors about fighting in the halls. We face new academic challenges, as evidenced by the science results on this year's Meap test. New methods to improve students' ability in science will have a much more significant effect on our schools' reputation - and the area's home values as well.
GP For Life April 21, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Chris, using data as some sort of measure is foolish. I would recommend you become more "forward-thinking" and embrace diversity because anyone who just looks at rankings and our schools' continued slide into obscurity is racist. See, GpGr67 and many others are afraid that they will appear racist if they point at the data and say something is wrong. If these same people looked at the same data and ignored the anecdotal evidence (I only say anecdotal because I don't know where to find it.) that most of the transferring students are not of the same ethnic background of the majority, they too would be more concerned and more supportive of corrective action. Since people have to interject race into a very simple equation, for which race shouldn't be a factor, the problem becomes more complex. Reality would disagree with the complexity that these people attach to the problem. If you look at the problem objectively the solution is simple. Students are transferring in that don't meet the academic standards we've set. So instead of lowering our standards we should re-forge the minds of the transferring students to our original academic standards. Since many of them are transfering in from failing school districts we need to A) identify where they will struggle at our expected level of academic performance and B) take remedial action. I suppose this makes me racist. May God have mercy on my soul.
Wendy April 22, 2012 at 05:18 PM
GP For Life, The "data" to which you point doesn't seem reliable. Focusing on our standing in Michigan, only, at worst South dropped from 2nd to 5th place in a few years. That could be an anomaly; it might be based on different criteria they used to decide rankings, and quite frankly seems insignificant. Look at the US News rankings; schools rise and fall every year. You then attach a link to the Huffington Post site for rankings. Granted GP Schools are not on the "best schools" list, but neither are the Birmingham schools. And Utica is. Doesn't that seem a bit fishy to you? My husband is a statistician, and he would be first the first to say not to trust "rankings" like these. I'm all for an objective account of how our schools perform, but I'm not convinced these surveys are accurate measurements. Moreover, as a parent and graduate of GP Schools, I have two key concerns: (1) are our students admitted to top tier colleges and (b) how do they perform once there. I attended U of M, where I felt classes were actually easier than at South. Whether there are more students now from disadvantaged backgrounds that may bring down averages has no bearing on how well the school prepares students for college. It may affect college admissions; I don't have any data on that. But I was impressed with last year's list of colleges where students of both North and South were attending.
GP For Life April 22, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Wendy: I wouldn't describe the statistics as reliable either, though I have looked at others and urge you to do the same along with their respective methodologies. I would describe them as good indicators, however. Good, not perfect and not great. I also feel that these rankings, especially the national ranking, are probably followed to a varying degree by admissions boards at top-tier universities and thus are important. Whether or not these statistics are good representations or not, I would still rely on them more than anecdotal evidence. Though, I too am very impressed with the continued level of excellence I see. I just want to preserve and ensure it for future generations in addition to giving the same benefits that previous graduates had recieved to our new transfers. There's no downside in bringing everyone to the same level and there is a lot of upside for our community and the nation as a whole. The reasoning behind this is; 1) it's the right thing to do; 2) our property values are and have always been closely linked to our schools. I just don't understand the resistance to helping all our kids achieve to the maximum level. I am not saying you are part of this resistance, just pointing out that people really take a dim view. I view this as a great opportunity to help a lot of kids who wouldn't have the same advantage otherwise.
Joe MacDonald April 23, 2012 at 01:59 PM
The Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI, http://michigan.gov/cepi) collects and provides the mean scores on the American College Test (ACT) for the students from each Michigan high school each year. In 2011, CEPI released the average ACT scores for each high school over the past four years (2008-2011). Scores for both Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe South high schools are as follows: AVERAGE ACT SCORE SCHOOL 2011 2010 2009 2008 NORTH 21.5 21.2 21.4 21.6 SOUTH 24.0 23.7 23.3 22.9
Jason R. April 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM
I beg anyone to find a school district that doesn't have any problems. We have countless friends that attended GP schools and have "moved away" for the reasons mentioned by several people. Are their kids getting a better education at Rochester, Birmingham or Lake Orion schools? NO. I think everyone, including realtors, need to realize that our schools are superior and we need to be advocates of our community or we, the residents, will be the demise of GP. Stop blaming everyone else, have pride in your community and recruit good families to be part of our cities that offer so much more than any other city in metro Detroit.
Wendy April 24, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Jason: I couldn't agree more. GP residents are our own worst enemies. We have to do a better job promoting ourselves. This negativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course we must focus on improving schools. GPforLife is correct--it's the right thing to do and it affects property values. But positive perception also is key to attracting families, which affects property values as well. We need to focus on selling our attributes to young families--walkability, strong sense of community, easy access to culture and entertainment in Detroit, great housing stock, and great schools. We have all the necessary components to be tops on everyone's list.
GPer April 24, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Having been a student at Parcells, then moving to Brownell due to excessive bullying and it not being handled, I agree they are not safe. I was pushed down the stairs in my wheelchair after a surgery while attending Parcells. I completed 7th grade at Brownell and had a wonderful, welcoming experience. Then, due to overcrowding at South, I had to go to North for my Freshman year. After being put on "death lists" and the only action being done was a 75 year old "school nurse" to escort me from class to class, my parents eventually decided to move so I could attend South, where I again, never had an issue and graduated top of my class. Having went to all 4 school, I can say with 100% certainty that Brownell and South are safer schools, the teachers care more because the parents do too.
Jeff Broderick April 26, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Lets put some facts in prespective. I find it interesting that the Grosse Pointe schools, whether one is "ranked" 520th or 1187th, are viewed negatively - are you kidding me? This should be viewed as a glass half full - not half empty! For starters, one needs to know the methodology used in past Newsweek ranking prior to 2010; if memory serves me right, the ranking were based on the number of AP tests offered in a school relative to the numbers of students taking the tests. Even under this measure, the GP schools were ranked in the top 1000 IN THE NATION. Is this not some measure of excellence? So what happened in 2010. The measurement changed, with the new criteria seen at http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/features/2011/americas-best-high-schools.html To characterize a "slipping" performance resulting from a change in criteria is certainly misleading. To gain a perspective of Grosse Pointe schools' performance relative to other schools in the tri-county area, one needs only to look at the MEAP/ ACT scores published annually relative to other top performing districts. Grosse Pointe continually ranks with the best. Relative to rumor and innuendo - come on, check it before relying on the "I heard", or "He/she said". Arrange a visit to the schools to see for yourself. Listen to those who are there day in and day out. Don't naysay our schools - be a positive influence for further improvement.
Jeff Broderick April 26, 2012 at 05:52 AM
P.S. - Also in the interest of full disclosure, I graduated from South a "few" too many years ago - my two daughters graduated from North in recent years, I was active in the schools, and I was on the school board from '01 to '06 with considerable time spent in the schools. As far as diversity goes, all one has to do is travel around our country as well as in other countries, to see the mixing bowl of society. As parents, isn't it our responsibility to adequately prepare them for the real world.
Patrick Lemanski April 30, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I find all the data presented in the comments above intiminating(Tim Campbell) and feel the situation will only get worst(Mike). Proud to be a Grosse Pointe School tax paying Harper Woods resident whose only hope is that my kids come through the system able to communicate better than Mr. Campbell and Mike. GO NORSEMEN, GO PANTHERS!
Patrick Lemanski April 30, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Oh yeah lets not forget those fabulous Poupard Dragons!! Penny Stocks, her staff and the students are awesome.
Tom Carter May 15, 2012 at 11:32 PM
A formal petition should be started to redistrict the Grosse Pointe School system boards. Is anyone up for the challange?
George R. McMullen Jr. May 16, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Tom could you please clarify I'm not sure what you are asking thanks
Parent May 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Well put Katie!
Kathleen K. May 22, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Not all of Harper Woods is an issue, keep that in mind, please. And the portions that attend GPPS also pay higher taxes for that privilege. The Eastland Apartments do *not* represent the entire city. Sincerely, A proud Harper Woods GPN graduate

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