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Our Kids Deserve Better

6 Important Questions for Board Candidates

Dear Candidates:

Your constituents are interested in the issues on this blog.


The Stats

Here are some stats from the last ten days:

  • More than 1000 visits to this Blog
  • More than 600 unique visitors
  • More than 4,500 page views
  • The average visit is more than 6 minutes


The Issue

Many constituents view this election as very important. We’re trying to decide whom we should elect as the people’s representatives in governing the Administration.

While there was a Candidates’ Forum, the Administration controlled what questions were asked and which questions were posed to whom. There were no unfiltered questions from constituents. Also, your allotted response time for answers was very short.

The Invitation to Candidates

So we’re inviting each of you to answer a few more questions to help voters make decisions, if you would, please.

Ms. Levine, even though you’re running unopposed, we’d appreciate it if you would respond as well, please.

Below are six questions related to issues on this blog and other matters readers have submitted via comments or via this Blog’s contact form.

We will publish your responses on this Blog. Please write your answers in a Word file. You may upload the Word file containing your responses via the contact form of this Blog.


The Deadline

The deadline for responses is Saturday night, October 27, at midnight. Your responses will not be immediately published upon submission. You’ll be able to submit your responses prior to the deadline, but because we want independent answers, ones not swayed by how your fellow candidates respond, we’ll be publishing all responses simultaneously Monday morning, October 29.

If you have comments or questions about this process, please submit them via this Blog’s contact form before Monday, October 22. We will publish any comments and questions we receive from you and provide public answers for the benefit of all candidates.


The Opportunity

The Candidates’ Forum only had around 100 attendees. In the last ten days, there have been more than 1000 visits and more than 600 unique visitors to this Blog. This is an opportunity to inform a large number of highly interested constituents, and to distinguish yourselves from the other candidates.

Thank you for running for the EGRPS School Board, and thank you in advance for participating.

The Questions

1Although 98% of EGR students are college-bound, according to ACT Benchmarks, only 43% of EGR students are college-ready. There’s been no real improvement in East’s scores during the last five years, suggesting the Administration’s improvement strategies aren’t working. On the other hand, at Forest Hills Central High School, 54% of students are college-ready, improving 16 points in one year alone, showing that significant change can occur in very short timeframes. As a candidate, what do you think should be done, and, specifically, how should the Board hold the Administration accountable for college-readiness?

2When it took as little as 29% correct answers (for example, for fourth-grade math) to be proficient on the MEAPs, it was pretty easy for East to have really high proficiency scores. Now that the bar has been raised to more appropriate levels, there is more transparency in student performance, and the numbers aren’t so good. For instance, only 66% of East students are deemed proficient in Math according to the 2011 MEAPs. Other areas show also show poor performance. Do you consider these scores a “tradition of excellence?” What percentage of proficiency could reasonably be called excellent? How should the Board hold the Administration accountable for improvements in student performance?

3Although the Board unanimously approved the implementation of the Engage 1:1 initiative, the initiative was apparently controversial among parents in the district. The initiative has been launched at the high school this year and is slated to roll out to the middle school in fall 2013 and elementary schools in fall 2014. Do you support the continued roll out of the 1:1 initiative as planned? What are the reasons and the supporting data for your position on this matter?

4During the first five years of the Shubel administration, the percentage of EGR K-12 special education students was cut 45%, to the point where EGRPS had the lowest K-12 special education percentage of any public K-12 school district in the state. In 2011, the Kent ISD Director of Special Education defended the District’s practices. However, in doing so, the Kent ISD Director of Special Education also said special education students’ participation in the MEAPs is a key indicator whether a district is under-identifying special education kids. Statewide, 1 in 34 special ed kids is pulled from taking the MEAPs because they are unable to take the MEAPs. The State wants no more than 1 in 20 to be pulled. In East, however, 1 in 6 special ed kids is designated unable to take the MEAPs, even with accommodations. This perhaps suggests only the most obviously impaired kids are being identified for special education. Should the Administration’s special education practices and policies be investigated? If so, how do you propose that be done? If elected, what concrete steps will you take to ensure kids are properly identified for special education and that appropriate services are actually rendered to these kids? Please be specific.

5Recently, the middle school and Lakeside Elementary were designated as Focus Schools, which the State defines as ”the ten percent of Michigan schools having the widest gap in student achievement between their lowest and highest performing students.” The State goes on to say, “These schools have the greatest issues in supporting their lowest achieving students, whether their overall performance is high or low.” Dr. Shubel, in her August 17, 2012 letter called the Focus Schools designations “unwarranted.”  Do you agree with Dr. Shubel? Why or why not? What should the Board do in response to the Focus School designations? What should the Administration do in response to the designations?

6If elected, during your tenure you will decide whether Superintendent Shubel’s contract is extended or whether another person is recruited and ultimately chosen to lead the Administration. This will likely be one of the most important votes you cast during your tenure. And although you won’t vote on this matter for some time, the people of this district have to cast their votes in a couple weeks, and we’d like to know where you stand. At present, are you inclined to extend Dr. Shubel’s contract or seek someone else for the position? If you are inclined to seek other candidates for Superintendent, do you think Dr. Shubel should be among the possible candidates considered? Please tell us the reasons for your response.


  1. Great questions & I will be totally surprised if a current board member answers for you. I am voting for the two new people because I am disgusted at the way our district is headed & the lack of leadership from our school board president—who does not live in EGR—and superintendent.

    We have lost our way & are no longer the elite school district we once were.

    The recent test scores showing EGRPS in the 63rd percentile should have been a wakeup call for everyone. I have seen no plan for improvement. Sara Shubel has three assistant superintendents & between these four individuals nearly $700K going to these individuals & our district has a budget of only $28 Million—

    Our Middle School has had very poor performances for several years yet our Principal is coaching varsity football—where are the priorities of this district?

    The Forest Hills Schools have repeatedly outperformed EGRPS. With their tax base they are likely to continue to grow & attract young families who have parents who are educated.

    EGR has ‘dumbied down’ to keep athletes eligible & we have distorted the academic performance when we allow kids who pass a classroom test to repeat the test as many as three times. In the real world you don’t get practice tests—why do we allow this at EGRPS. All this provides is for children to not take a test seriously & we completely distort children’s grade point averages when we allow retakes. Do you really think colleges don’t know what is happening when our children apply?

    • Thanks for your comments. Appreciate your perspectives.

      Just a couple of clarifications:

      • While Brian Ellis, School Board President, doesn’t live in East Grand Rapids, it appears he does live within the EGRPS School District. The boundaries of the City of EGR and the District of EGR don’t fully overlap. Are you saying he doesn’t live within the EGRPS district?
      • The district’s website lists two assistant superintendents, Kevin Philipps and Jeanne Glowicki. Who are you considering the third?
      • my mistake–Doug Jenkins–costing district $146K same as Kathleen Wisniewski. For the experience levels of the administrators they sure do get paid well!!!!1

  2. Did not ONE candidate respond? If this is the case, SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

    • Just posted information regarding candidates responses to the questions. See this post.

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