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GP Schools Superintendent Addresses Residency Concerns

Following discussion regarding residency concerns at last week's school board meeting, Superintendent Tom Harwood shared a letter he wrote to the community addressing the issue.

Residency and enrollment at has spurred a great deal of discussion among the residents of the five communities.

Many of those involved are parents of children in the district currently and have concerns that there are many students taking classes in Grosse Pointe who do not actually live in the Pointes or the section of Harper Woods that is part of the district.

There was not disagreement at the meeting from board members about wanting only children who are residents of the six communities to attend the schools but there has been some disagreement about how to enforce it.

District officials briefly gave an overview of what goes on now to verify residency, including the higher level of proof required for those renting a home or leasing an apartment. The group wants enforcement to be given much more attention, however, and requested annual re-enrollment.

A re-enrollment was conducted five or six years ago, which cost the district between $80,000 to $90,000--something pointed out during the board meeting last week. The cost is prohibitive to doing it annually, acording to district officials.

Since that meeting, Grosse Pointe Public Schools Superintendent Tom Harwood has released a letter he wrote to the community explaining the district's dedication to ensuring only students of the Pointes are being allowed into the classrooms. 

He also addresses the changes in the housing market, the economy and to the district historically--all of which impact who is living in the district and how they arrive at school. Additionally, he addresses the portion of Harper Woods that is part of the school district.

The letter is attached to this article as a pdf file in the media area.

Bradley Coopersmith July 31, 2012 at 02:18 PM
This was a very well written letter but I did not see one indication of how we are going to address this problem. It is August already. Are we really going to develop a plan in 30 days that will solve this issue? Those who claimed racial bias in the last posts are wrong. We don't need to be racist. We simply need everyone to pay their fair share. I understand we have more renters. I understand that people have been hurt by the economy and need to lease their homes out. But that does not excuse the inaction. GPPSS needs to tell us exactly what will happen now and if Snyder's school of choice passes. Wait and see does not work in this scenario because we are talking about our property values and our children's education. So what if it costs $90,000 to perform a residency verification each year. That would add less than $12.00 to the taxes of GPW and GPS households and I suspect no one would have a problem with it. We should have a law firm researching every option, from redrawing district lines to rewriting bylaws. I read the school bylaws and they read quite liberally with regards to whom can attend GPPSS. Maybe we need to rewrite them and fight the opposition legally. We cannot afford to lose our schools. The preservation of property values is paramount. If our schools system goes we will be just another suburb in Detroit which happens to have especially old homes in it. We need a plan now.
Peter Callert July 31, 2012 at 02:55 PM
To believe that GPPSS can survive , without becoming a school of choice district is dillusional.
Bradley Coopersmith July 31, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Pete, Thanks for your input. Any solutions to help out when this happens? Or are you just saying that we are just getting worked up over the inevitable and should just accept that there is nothing we can do?
Hunter Douglas July 31, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Bradley, you state, "GPPSS needs to tell us exactly what will happen now and if Snyder's school of choice passes." You can't react to a plan until you know what the plan is. The plan is still being written. No legislation has been introduced yet. Your anger is misdirected if it's aimed at the district. Write to Gov. Snyder's office, or directly to Richard McLellan, the lawyer in Lansing who is running the show. No one on the board supports schools of choice.
anthony neme July 31, 2012 at 03:46 PM
One overlooked criteria is the Michigan and local code enforcement regarding how many persons can dwell in a place of residence. My previous experience as a superintendent of a 44 unit apartment complex made me curious to these little known or inquired codes.
Bradley Coopersmith July 31, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Hunter, I understand what you are saying but i also feel not much has been done so far in the current situation. I just think that being prepared with some ideas on how to counter the situation would be better than seeing what happens. We know that school of choice will bring certain changes that can be anticipated but not everything will be known. Lets at least plan for the things we know. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, here are a few ideas that may or may not work. GPPSS could announce: - that if the school of choice law passes it is prepared to revise its capacity figures. - individuals that are not within the original district lines must pay additional funds - individuals that are not within original district lines that fall below a certain GPA will be asked to leave. - individuals that are not within original district lines will have to provide academic records that show no behavioral problems in former schools. I am sure some of these violate some law somewhere but you catching my drift?
Pete Spencer July 31, 2012 at 05:15 PM
The Grosse Pointe School District has been and can continue to be a leader in education, but not if it focuses too much on the wrong things. Becoming excellent in residency, discipline, and dress code enforcement does not make us a leader in education. No one will come to Grosse Pointe to hear about how we reduced our residency violations to zero. Schools that are leaders in education focus their time and resources designing learning environments and experiences that challenge and engage all students who walk through the doors. Schools that lead develop in their students a desire to work and learn together, not an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Schools that lead extend their positive influence beyond their borders instead of holing up inside of them. The sky is not falling. Efforts are being made to verify residency. Principals work daily to maintain a safe, orderly environment just as they have for decades. And from the mini-skirts of the 60’s to today’s baggy pants, students will push the limits with their attire. I hope that the school board and administration continue spending a majority of their time making the schools in Grosse Pointe great places for students to be and learn regardless of where they come from or how they get there.
Bradley Coopersmith July 31, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Pete, I don't think anyone will disagree with you that we want our schools focusing on quality education and not residency but I believe you can't have one without the other. To accept your theory is to say that Detroit Public Schools would be better if they just focused on providing a quality education but the reality is that there are social issues that interfere with doing so. For example, students from failing schools coming to GP bring the averages down which in turn hurts the quality of our school district. Lowering the quality results in lowered property values.
GP For Life July 31, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Bradley: Peter is just using this tone to make the other side of the debate seem unreasonable and alarmist. Just as he says: "I hope the administration continue spending a majority..." implies that enforcing the law is just a distraction to all the good they're doing. Good for you for spotting the red herring. GP For Life
George R. McMullen Jr. July 31, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Pete agreed and well said
Mark July 31, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Part of designing a learning environment where students can properly thrive is ensuring everyone in the classroom should be there. Also, I don't know if you noticed but beyond GP borders at, least where it matters (GPP, GPC, GPF), there is a vast wasteland of apathy, laziness and violence. Sure not everyone can be painted with that brush but it isn't out of bounds to use broad strokes across Mack. To be clear this is not a race issue this is a socioeconomic issue. We don't need outside residents sneaking in and bringing their education-averse attitudes into our school system. That sir degrades the learning environment.
George R. McMullen Jr. July 31, 2012 at 10:14 PM
There are many good comments not only on this article but several that have been written about the school system. My wish is to see many more people contact administration directly and also attend the School board meetings. Meet your board and Administration. Perhaps the best time to show up is prior to the meetings to be able to introduce your self to board members and administration as they arrive. Or stay after for a few minutes also a great opportunity to meet the people that run our system. Set an appointment and talk or e-mail the board or administration. Writing on patch is great but tell the people on charge directly is better. Below is the link for the Grosse Pointe Public School system if anyone has any questions about what is written above contact me direct my cell is 313-549-6363. Thanks G. http://gpschools.schoolwires.net/gpschools/site/default.asp
Bob Carr July 31, 2012 at 11:59 PM
George, great advice. My hat is off to you for speaking in the authentic first person but also for putting yourself out front and center with your contact information. That is acting with conviction.
NDN August 01, 2012 at 02:57 AM
To save the cost, why not ask for a volunteer committee to do the work?
George R. McMullen Jr. August 01, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Thanks Bob appreciate the kind comment G
George R. McMullen Jr. August 01, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Dear NDN a good suggestion however while I'm not completely sure due to the sensitive nature of clients applying for admission to the school system they need to provide very private and personal information. I believe in order to be able to process there needs to be a legal relationship between the processor and the school system therefore a legal paid employee…Hope I’m not speaking out of turn to confirm call 389 St Clair and ask the number is (313) 432-3000 they would be delighted to help you and answer your question
anthony neme August 01, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Pete, well said but i'm afraid its an idealistic point of view. Mark put it plain and simple but left out some things I will expound on. Mark, you left out the simple fact of we are taxpayers and homeowners in this community. My wife and I invested in this community for the "pillars" it provides. Schools, public safety, parks, family atmosphere, etc. None of this exists beyond the immediate borders as you said, and I most certainly agree on all of your points. I will defend our borders because I and perhaps you pay a small ransom for taxes for the pillars and I will be damned to allow violation of said pillars by persons who would otherwise prefer to violate them due to any number of things. George, I agree with you about involvement, but If I were in the administration I would have my pulse to every social connection possible including here. It is remiss of the school board to not accept social media such as this as the sounding boards of preference. Secondly, I agree with the legal representation since discussions of this nature have a way of finding themselves misconstrued and in the legal process shortly thereafter, good call on that one! Now, if our illustrious governor wants to push schools of choice on us, I would vote for privatization of the district for GP residents along with recalling him ASAP.
Bradley Coopersmith August 01, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Seriously, it would add about $12 to GPW and GPS residents' taxes to conduct annual residency verification. That's an ounce of prevention if you ask me. I believe that the GPPSS is trying to provide the best education possible and that these discussions take the administration out of their field of education and into politics but not addressing these issues now will hurt taxpayers and educators. We have seen what an eroding tax base does within a community. It will only get worse if we can't properly manage our school system.
Brendan Walsh August 01, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Here's a few links that answer in part some of what I am reading on these boards: Everyone should read Gov. Snyder's "Special Message on Education" (4/27/2011) in which he calls for mandatory schools of choice: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/snyder/SpecialMessageonEducationReform_351586_7.pdf In response to last year's effort by Gov. Snyder to mandate "Borderless Schools" (aka Schools of Choice) I assembled a massive amount of research that we used in cooperation with the Michigan Communities for Local Control (MCLC) in our successful lobbying effort last year to stop the legislation: http://www.brendanwalsh.us/2011/10/research-on-michigan-senate-bill-624/ Gov. Snyder again has assembled a committee to overhaul how schools are funded, emphasizing equity and dollars following students, not districts. Either or both of these planks represent major change for GPPSS (and other higher revenue districts). To understnd how school funding works today, I assembled narrated pieces on th district's web site. It would be good for people to know how things work today to evaluate potential changes: http://gpschools.schoolwires.net/176710824214738427/site/default.asp To see a year by year summary of Enrollment Eligibility investigations and outomes, we have posted these online: http://gpschools.schoolwires.net/176710911156150/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=61455&176710911156150Nav=|&NodeID=1303 Gov. Snyder seeks the changes by Oct. 2013, one year away.
Bradley Coopersmith August 01, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Brendan, Kudos on providing this information. The document you prepared was very insightful. The fact that School of Choice provides a financial advantage to schools receiving choice students and a disadvantage to those losing them seems to counteract finding ways to improve our educational system.
Diane Smith August 02, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Just released today; here is another reason why accurate residency is important: http://www.freep.com/article/20120802/NEWS06/120801077/school-report-cards-database?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE&appSession=1306533931782
Bill August 02, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Unfortunately that gap is due to the school on the other side of 94, feeding parcells, feeding north, glad I live in the other part of the district because I don't know how, short of getting rid of harper woods and giving them that school that you will solve that problem?
GP For Life August 02, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I read that article too. It shows how a statistical inflection point will almost always lag anecdotal evidence. I totally agree with the sentiment that anecdotal evidence is largely worthless, but anecdotal evidence will frequently appear long before its statistical couterpart and sometimes it herald the change to come. We are witnessing this scenario.
Wendy August 02, 2012 at 07:53 PM
The "focus" school distinction does not speak to the overall quality of the school. This is a measure of standard deviations, but where you set the mean makes all the difference. It is based on the difference between the top 30% and bottom 30%. Trombly is in the 95th percentile yet it is a "focus" school. This means that the top students are performing very, very well. But for the school to still rank at the 95th percentile means that the entire population, even the bottom, is performing well above average. Poupard, on the other hand, is in the 37th percentile, and isn't a "focus" school, because there isn't a large disparity between the top performers at the school and the bottom.
GP For Life August 02, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Actually Wendy, where the mean is almost entirely irrelevant to the discussion. Since they're taking the bottom and top 30% and comparing the two. This is at least how I understand their methodology. The way you're suggesting makes more sense to me and is closer to the way I would do it. Something closer semi-variance would be more relevant. What I am pointing out is that there clearly is an achievement gap being formed in our school system. A gap that's been measured and is backing up anecdotal evidence from around the GP Streets.
Bradley Coopersmith August 02, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Bill, If GPS can move to Macomb, then i figure we can redraw our school district lines. Why don't we put that on the ballot?
Chris K August 03, 2012 at 01:41 AM
This may interest some of those who have concerns about school achievement. http://gpschools.schoolwires.net/17671012394220393/lib/17671012394220393/2012/June/Work/Demographics.pdf
Bradley Coopersmith August 03, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Chris, Wow. The data is startling. The information on pages 47 - 52 was especially insightful. It really is troublesome.
Brendan Walsh August 03, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Now we're getting to the heart of the matter. This report was presented to the Board at our last meeting after we made it clear, as a Board, that we want greater data analysis to drive program and budget decisions. The achievement gap is nothing new, neither for the GPPSS or any other school across the world. The difference for the GPPSS is that as the student demographic has changed, we have double the number of students who have demographic characteristics that manifest the achievement gap. My blog, www.brendanwalsh.us , has treated this extensively. What complicates the "residency question" is NOT whether anyone disagrees that only eligible students should be enrolled in GPPSS, but rather the presumption that given this doubling of the economically population, which contributes to a pronounced achievement gap, is driven by illegal enrollment or legitimate change in community demographics. Brendan
GP For Life August 04, 2012 at 03:27 PM
The data provided by Chris K suggests only that we are descending into a culture of mediocrity. A descent that I for one won't stand for. I propose a multi-faceted approach to the subject. 1) Placement test for transfer students. You read at a third-grade level; back to third grade you go. We will no longer tolerate sloth and ignorance in our fine institutions of learning and culture. 2) Enforce residency requirements. Root out those who seek to suckle at our auspicious teats and purge them like Stalin purged those who didn't toe the party line. 3) Create a citizens action group to confront and combat Snyder's "Schools of Choice" initiative. Why we should further support communities which have not seen fit to fix their own problems is beyond me. We have prisons for that. We need to band together and tell Lansing that this won't go over without a fight. I am GP For Life and I approve this message.

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