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Local school superintendents at Chamber Forum include, from left, Dr. Stephen Bigelow, Michael Vieau, Matthew Cortez and Matthew Schmidt.


"Proposal A Didn't Work," Funding Inequities Cited by Supt. Cortez

November 11, 2017       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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"Public education is the right of every citizen; we have to fix it."

So spoke Matthew Cortez, superintendent of the Essexville-Hampton School District, at a Business & Education Partnership Forum on the "State of Education," held Thursday at the Courtyard by Marriott at Uptown Bay City.

About 100 attendees participated as Cortez and three other superintendents spoke at the forum, moderated by a fifth superintendent, Deb Kadish of the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District. Other leaders at the microphone answering questions, besides Mr. Cortez, were Dr. Stephen Bigelow of the Bay City Public Schools; Michael Vieau of the Pinconning Area Schools; and Matt Schmidt, of the Bangor Township Schools.

Mr. Schmidt served in the U.S. Army, earned BA and MA degrees from Eastern Michigan University and an Educational Specialist's degree from Saginaw Valley State University and worked as teacher and administrator in the Bay City Public Schools for 16 years before being named to head the Bangor Township Schools five years ago. He is working on his dissertation for a doctoral degree at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Cortez is a University of Michigan graduate and earned masters and Educational Specialist degrees from Wayne State University. He was a teacher and administrator in the Detroit Public Schools for nine years and held administrator positions in the Adrian, Bentley and Monroe public schools.

Supt. Vieau is in his seventh year as superintendent of the Pinconning Area Schools and has worked in education for 28 years. He earned an AA degree from Delta College and bachelor's and master's degrees in Secondary School Administration from Central Michigan University. He was recently named the Pinconning/Linwood Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for his work in the district and community.

Dr. Bigelow, who succeeded Douglas Newcombe as superintendent in Bay City in July, earned Ph.D. and EdS degrees from Oakland University; he also has a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. After serving as an administrator in Warren, Sterling Heights and a teacher in South Lyon and Warren, he was superintendent of Capac Community Schools prior to being named superintendent in Bay City.

Supt. Kadish has been BAISD superintendent since 2013, having previously been interim superintendent and director of Special Education after joining the district in 2010. She has a BA from Valparaiso University and an MA in Special Education as well as administrative certificates in elementary and secondary education and school superintendency from Indiana University. After beginning her career as a Special Education teacher, she has worked as a high school assistant principal, elementary school principal, director of Special Education and director of Secondary Education.

A welcome and opening comments were by Ryan Tarrant, president & CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. The Jerome L. Yantz Partner in Education Award was presented to Lisa Rechsteiner of Graff Chevrolet, by Supt. Kadish.

Supt. Vieau noted that the Pinconning district has established an innovative program whereby residents who lack home Internet access can use free wi-fi at township halls in Pinconning, Mt. Forest, Fraser, and Bentley. He said schools need to focus on the gap between the top achieving 30 percent and the bottom 30 percent.

He urged school and business leaders and the public to contact legislators about testing. "We can't continue to move the target; we embrace change but we need to know what change is rather than continually changing standards."

Dr. Bigelow noted the difficulty of dealing with unfunded mandates for student behavior while "tools and powers have been taken away from schools and teachers."

"We need a seat at the table," commented Supt. Schmidt about student testing and other issues in education.

Supt. Cortez also focused on inequitable funding, noting Oakland County schools get 50 percent more state aid per student than our local districts and commenting: "Proposal A didn't work -- the rich districts still get more dollars." He also urged legislators to address the issue of inadequate teacher pay that has thinned out the pool of available teaching staff.

Noting that it costs $40,000 per year to house a prison inmate, while funding for a student is just about $7,500 a year, Mr. Cortez urged fixing the funding formula to "pay for it now and get it right."


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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