ELi Asks About Reconfiguration

Saturday, October 25, 2014, 10:20 am
Rebecca J. McAndrews
East Lansing High School

In an effort to provide the community of East Lansing a closer look at candidates running for School Board in the upcoming November 4 elections, ELi gave every candidate the opportunity to answer a list of questions regarding their goals and ideas for improving education in East Lansing. Candidates were provided a 200-word limit per question and ELi’s publisher selected the order in which their answers appear through a random drawing of names.  

The answers to ELi’s previous questions can be found in these articles:

Why are you running?

Why are you qualified?

What would you change?

What are your fiscal priorities?

A total of eight candidates will vie for four seats on the East Lansing School Board, each with a four-year term attached.  While every candidate was provided the opportunity to participate, Jeffrey C. Wray did not respond to ELi’s invitation. 

Our district has recently undergone a large reconfiguration and school closing.  What is your position on maintaining or reversing these decisions made by the current school board?

Response from Yasmina Bouraoui:

A decision was made to close Red Cedar school, and significant redistricting has occurred.  Those decisions have been implemented.  I have no intention of reversing any decisions that were made. I do know that the board had promised some educational programming at Red Cedar, and I would be supportive of exploring innovative programming options that could complement the use of that building, if it could be done in a fiscally responsible manner.  I have outlined some of those options in question #3. The reality is, all six buildings can be used for elementary buildings, especially if we are committed to differentiating our buildings and marketing accordingly, and working together as a community to meet the needs of all of our students, families, and community members (including Michigan State University and the City of East Lansing).

Response from Karen Hoene:

Having served on the K-8 Facilities Committee, I watched first hand as the board ignored input from the committee, the architectural firm, the City of East Lansing, MSU and the community at large in their decision to close Red Cedar.  From the beginning, I was in favor of maintaining six walkable elementary schools.  I still feel that this is the best decision for the district but I realize that this is simply not an option at this time.  As a board member, I would seek to follow through on the former board and administrations promise to keep educational programming at Red Cedar.   I envision it being used as an early learning center or housing a Reggio or public Montessori program.  I have no intention of closing any of the other schools in order to reopen Red Cedar, as this would further divide our community.

Response from Joe Borgstrom:

I’m sure an argument can be made to call into question about how the board came about to choose closing Red Cedar Elementary. However, that decision has been made and it’s time to move forward. The lives of every single elementary school student has been affected. Some, including my kids, were reassigned schools even though their school did not close. Others saw friends reassigned and taken out of their everyday lives. They’ve moved forward bravely and made schools like Whitehills and Glencairn their new schools. The principals, teachers, staffs and families of these schools have done a phenomenal job during this transition despite early communication miscues by the district. I can appreciate the concern of those who live near Red Cedar Elementary about the future of the building. The district owes it to this neighborhood to engage with them and make a plan for the future of that building. As someone who works in community development, I know the specter of a boarded up school can cause harm to a neighborhood. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Response from David Gott:

I believe that there was a public process in the deliberation and closing of Red Cedar.  There was a cost savings of over $650,000 that was gained and although divisive, the decision was necessary.  I don't believe that it is good policy to go back and reverse decisions made by the Board nor would it be a smart decision to create another transition for our students.  I would stand by that decision and work to find creative ways to use the facility for the betterment of the ELPS.

Response from Kyle Guerrant:

Closing a building is one of the toughest decisions a school board has to make.  The district data documented that ELPS did not have the student enrollment to justify having 6 elementary buildings in the district.  The current school board already made the decision to close a building and reconfigure the district to best meet our student enrollment.  Having 3 elementary aged students in the district, they, like most other elementary students in the district, have been impacted by this decision. One of my students attended the building that was closed last year, and is now having a great start to his school year, fully embracing his new school environment.  I think adults in community need to follow the example he, and many other students are setting and move forward with the new building alignment.  Financially, reversing the current school board decision would only facilitate the new board having to close another elementary building, throwing students and families into chaos - again. I do think there are a whole host of opportunities to utilize the closed for educational purposes, especially early childhood programming (birth - 4 years)

Response from Nell Kuhnmuench:

My focus is on the future – a future that shines bright for all our students.  I will creatively identify programs to engage our students’ imaginations located, as the current Board promised, at Red Cedar.  ELPS needs more opportunities for students to explore their interests, pursue their dreams – in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts!   The Board must assure these opportunities so that our students emerge from our schools prepared to enter a world that is changing every day, where they are facing challenges adults cannot begin to imagine.

Red Cedar’s proximity to MSU, its layout adjacent to a park in beautiful green space, and the number of spacious classrooms, will afford any number of enrichment programs that can be placed and flourish there.  I imagine what the ELPS district could offer in the way of a tuition pre-K to complement and enhance our early learners’ programs for at-risk students; an International Baccalaureate program; enhanced advance placement programming; enrichment offerings in conjunction with the many noted schools at MSU.  Too many are stuck in defending “victories” they feel they achieved rather than focusing on our student body.  We need a Board with emphasis on helping our students achieve their dreams!

Response from Kate Powers:

I do not have any interest in reversing the reconfiguration of the elementary schools, or any interest in reopening the closed building. The district has suffered a great deal from this reconfiguration and it is time to move forward and supporting all students. The district cannot financially support 6 elementary schools, and to retransition students would not help our students.

Disclosure: Rebecca J. McAndrews has two children who attend East Lansing Public Schools and is a substitute teacher for the district.

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