15 Sep 2014
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Ferndale School Board Candidate Profile: Keith Warnick

Warnick is one of eight seeking election to the school board in November.

Ferndale School Board Candidate Profile: Keith Warnick

Eight people are vying for four seats on Ferndale's school board in the November election and Ferndale Patch is bringing you Q&A profiles with each of the candidates.

We asked the candidates about why they want to be on the board of education, their backgrounds, what they consider the biggest areas for improvement and more.

Below are the replies of current board president Keith Warnick.

Keith Warnick

Q: Number of years a resident of the Ferndale school district?
I’ve been a district resident for (27) years; (12) in the Oak Park section of the district and (15) in Ferndale.

Q: Do you or did you have children in Ferndale schools?
I have (2) Ferndale High School alumni; 2000 and 2002; having started Kindergarten at Jackson Elementary School then on to Best (now Kennedy Elementary) Middle School and finally Ferndale High School.  I now have a Grandson attending Grant’s 4-Kids program.

Q: What prompted you to run for a seat on Ferndale's school board?
(8) years ago I thought of it as the next step in my volunteer career.  I brought and still bring a lot of board administration, district and institutional knowledge to the Board table.  I researched the district through old newspapers at the Historical Society.  I’m knowledgeable of past issues and make certain we do not repeat them.

Why am I running now?  Public Education faces almost daily legislative challenges.  If you haven’t stayed on top of the legislative issues already passed and upcoming issues in the pipeline facing Public Education you’ll be lost when decisions have to be made at the table.  State and Federal requirements seem to be changing on a whim.  There is no consistency other than the attempt to dismantle public education completely and fighting the attempted reforms of Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee and A.L.E.C.!  I constantly stay on top of state and federal legislative issues, informing the Board on a regular basis.

Q: What kinds of experiences – professional, educational or otherwise – make you a unique and qualified candidate? 
Boardmember activities:

  • (8-1/2) years on the Board; current President after (5) years as V/P.
  • MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards; our state association) Board of  Director for Region 8; Oakland, Wayne, Macomb Counties.  Elected by regional Boards of Ed in 2009.  Defeated incumbent.  Re-elected in 2012 against (3) challengers; took 66% of the vote.
  • MASB CBA (Certified Boardmember Award) Level 6 (of 7 levels), Master Platinum. 
  • Received based on 153 hours of classroom training (50 classes) and 900+ EDU credits, (Educational Development Units).
  • NSBA(National School Boards Association) Federal Relations Network (FRN) lobbying conference in Washington, DC (7) year attendee.
  • MASB Fall Conference (6) year attendee.
  • Governor’s Education Summit (3) year attendee.
  • Clark Hill/Plante Moran School Law & Finance (4) time attendee.
  • Legislative Conference (2) year attendee.
  • Labor Conference (1) year attendee.
  • NSBA Annual Conference (1) year attendee to receive Magna Award (one of only 15 given annually for educational creativity) for University High School’s graduation rate and college acceptance rate.
  • Leadership for Achievement (3) day conference.
  • OCSBA (Oakland County School Boards Association) Legislative Committee member (6) of (8) years.
  • Numerous local, regional and state educational and legislative presentations.

PTA activities:

  • (25) year PTA member.
  • Jackson Elementary PTA President 1993-1995.
  • PTA Council Secretary, 1995-1996; Second V/P, 1996-1997; 1st V/P, 1997-1998
  • PTA Council President 1998-2000 (created the first Council Legislative Liaison position).
  • As PTA Council Past President co-chaired district Anti-Voucher campaign with MEA Uniserve Director Cal Mott.  Recruited parents, as neighborhood canvassers, such as Mary Schusterbauer, Jackie Koivu, Darcey McLaughlin, Nancy Schmidt and Cyndi Chouinard and defeated DeVos family led campaign by 80% against and 20% for; largest margin in Oakland County.
  • Recruited by Michigan PTA as Region D (8 county region) Field Service to work with PTA units on training, recruitment, conflict resolution, etc. 2001-2005.
  • Michigan PTA Region D V/P; led team in working with PTA units across region. 
  • Gave presentations at Leadership Academies, local PTA Units and Councils and Annual Conferences on Building Successful Partnerships.
  • National PTA Diversity training.
  • Michigan PTA Annual Conference (7) year attendee.
  • Michigan PTA Legislative Conference (4) year attendee.
  • Michigan PTA Leadership Academy (7) year attendee.
  • Only region in the state during 2005-2007 that increased membership.
  • Ferndale PTA Council awarded me the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) in 2002 for my PTA leadership in the district.
  • Michigan PTA awarded me an Honorary Lifetime Membership in 2002.
  • Received Keys to Leadership pin for meeting 100 hours of PTA training during conferences.
  • Ferndale June Fair (10) year volunteer.

Q: What new ideas do you hope to bring to the table? 
What I’ve done so far during my volunteer and Board career; took 6th grade students to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Family Night at Cobo Center, twice, 1995 and 1996 at no cost to the families.

Brought National Plastics Museum PlastiVan program to Ferndale Schools in 1997 and 2005 at no cost to district.  (I was Education Committee member and Director of local SPE (Society of Plastics Engineers) chapter.  Ferndale was first district to receive this program and currently enjoy it yearly now).

Brought Lear Corporation, a Tier 1 automotive supplier, to University High School and they helped create a class on automotive interior design and marketing concepts.

Recommended participation in ASBJ (American School Board Journal) annual Magna Awards competition for innovative educational initiatives.  University High School won 1st Place in under 5,000 enrollment category.

Recommended FPS submit Clinic Sessions to MASB for 2011 and 2012 Fall Conference presentations and were approved.  One on District Budgeting in Challenging Economic times and Server Virtualization for Technology Department Savings.

I streamlined how to connect with the Board and Superintendent’s office from (10) e-mail addresses to (2). And those are posted on our website.

I have posted our Vision and Goals prominently during each meeting so the public has an idea of why we should be voting on what we are voting on.  And I have made those same Vision and Goals visible to each Board member at each meeting.

I worked with the state PTA past-president to give parents a presentation on the upcoming Common Core State Standards initiative.

As you might guess, being Board president and on the MASB Board of Directors, I get much literature and publications dealing with Public Education.  Whenever I see something of interest, whether it is curriculum related, facilities related or Board related, I pass along to the appropriate administrator copying the Superintendent. 

I’m currently working on a rotating schedule for Board member participation at district PTA meetings and city council/commission meetings.

I also have recommended a district parent group participate in a Key Communicator Network for important legislative issues.

I’m working on proper wording for our Bylaws to include annual Board member training to reach certain levels for better Board governance.

Q: What do you think are the biggest issues facing the school district? How would you handle them?
Student achievement:
is an ongoing, important task.  Although I disagree with the method used by the state to rank schools, and the MDE (Michigan Department of Education) is getting better, we have to live with that.  We have made progress in recent years; example is Ferndale High School designated as a state Rewards School because they have improved so much across all subject matters that they were rated as being in the top 5% of schools with similar improvements. 

How do we handle this?  We continue to support teacher and administrative School Improvement initiatives that focus on educating each child for the best outcome.  We also supported the creation of Data Team’s for better focus on individual students needs in conjunction with Early Release Monday for added staff professional development.  Lastly, the new Digital Learning Center will challenge our 15 to 19 year old former dropouts at their level; using new technology with focused Academic Case Managers helping in the building.

District Funding:
is also an ongoing challenge.  We receive funding from the state based on a per-pupil amount.  That is split in October and February payments based on percentages of FTE’s (Full Time Equivalents or number of students).  Last year the state took $503 per student away from us; ($2,000,000.00), forced us to meet 4 of 5 ‘Best Practices’ to get $100/student ‘bonus’; ($400,000.00).  This year we have to meet 7 of 8 best practices to get back $52/student ‘bonus’ with no per-pupil increase.  5 of the previous 8 years we received no funding increase or when we did receive an increase, mid-year they took some back.  (2009 $208,000,000 taken from School Aid Fund, meaning about $130 for each Ferndale student, to be given to the General Fund for Community Colleges; (not one person came to the Board meeting to complain about the Governor’s actions).  Actually they needed that $208 million in order to make their August revenue sharing payment to municipalities. 

What will I do?  What I’ve been doing for 8-1/2 years.  I bring legislative information to my Board regularly; at the table and in between through MASB alerts, NSBA alerts and OCSBA alerts.  I ask that they call or write their legislatures on important votes.  If urgent, I call our local legislatures about current bills up for vote that affect public education in general and Ferndale specifically.  I ask our Board members to pass along this info through their e-mail or Facebook address book so our constituents can get involved. 

School Aid Fund:
is being prepped for drastic change.  The Governor convened a private group of friends and colleagues to re-write the School Aid Fund, the Oxford Memo, that looks like a not-so-veiled state-wide Voucher System.  He wants the money to ‘follow the student’. The precursor to that will be considered in this Lame Duck session of our legislature.  My read on this is that students could take one class in Ferndale, a virtual class from Genesee ISD (they are ahead of the curve on virtual classrooms), another class in Southfield and a virtual class from a yet-to-be determined Charter Virtual School.

Current per-pupil allocation split (4) ways in (4) different ‘districts’.  What does that do to our staffing needs; the portion of our property taxes going to local districts; sales tax going to the School Aid Fund.  Too many variables.

What will I do?  DO everything I can to learn more about what this may entail.  Then continue to press our local legislature to make the right decisions for our children. It’s a never ending process.

Q: What do you regard as the district's successes? How would you continue or improve upon these areas, if re-elected? 
Ferndale High School-“Rewards School”; University High School-Nationally recognized Magna Award winner; Roosevelt Primary School-MASB Education Excellence award and Character Education school; (3) Green Schools; Positive Fund Balance 10 straight years; Award winning marching band; CASA; Digital Learning Center; Magnet Open Classroom Program; HR Professional of the Year; Graduates attending: Purdue University, full ride to Engineering School and a Coca Cola Scholarship winner; Air Force Academy; University of Michigan, full ride scholarship; MIT; Outstanding Theatre group; Sports with no pay-to-play; Multiple Pre-K options; National Merit finalists; Lawrence Technological University Partnership; IVD (Innovative Vehicle Design winners University High School; FHS Robotics Team; Ferndale Education Foundation; PTA Units; Volunteers.

We need to continue to support policies and structure that allow the teachers to inspire our students to reach great goals.  We need to continue to find funding options to make sure there is continued emphasis on putting as much into the classroom as possible.  We need to constantly upgrade our technology, as best we can, to meet the current and future needs of our yet to be determined students.  We need to increase our parent involvement in our district.  Decades of data show that when parents are involved, especially Fathers, student achievement increases.  We have a unique district in Ferndale that prepares our students for the next level. 

Q: Around the country, state and in Ferndale, school budgets continue to be an issue districts grapple with. What areas of the budget would be your biggest priority, if re-elected? Where do you see the most room for cuts, if needed?
Well, we’ve ‘grappled’ with our budget quite well over the last decade to maintain our Full Service District status.  The biggest job was increasing our fund balance, savings account from $176,000 to $4.3 million was not easy with no per-pupil increases or mid-year reductions.  Other districts in the Tri-County area hold Ferndale in high esteem and request information on our budgeting process.

My current biggest concerns are: MPSERS; the employee retirement system. Although this year’s state budget maintained the 24% retirement rate (Read that again.  We are charged by the state, since they set the rate, 24% of employees pay for their future retirement needs.  There is no way that rate can hold since legislation has pushed privatization which reduces the number of employees feeding the MPSERS fund.

Next is: Health Care.  We received some legislation assistance by offering either the Hard Cap or 80/20 split.  The problem is that there has been no attempt to rein in health care costs in the state.  With increases to nearby districts from 8% to nearly 24% on premiums, things have to change.

Since I’ve been on the Board, we have done a good job of maintaining programs for our students.  We do not look at cutting first; we look at generating revenue to keep offering a Full Service District.  Our bargaining units have stepped up to make sure we move forward with a strong budget while maintaining personnel. Ferndale is a unique district; offering core K-12, Adult/Alternative Ed (DLC); Ferndale Career Center; University High School schools of choice; County-wide schools of choice.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
I’ve been part of leading this district forward for the past 8-1/2 years.  I think I’ve made an impact on transforming the Ferndale Board from its own cocoon into a well respected district in Oakland County, the Metro area and statewide.  We’re known for our positive budget balance and Superintendent leadership.  We work hard as a collaborative, volunteer Board to get the work done on a monthly basis.  It’s a thankless job.  You rarely hear someone at the microphone say, “Thank You”!  But that’s OK!  I don’t do this for that personal gratification.  I don’t do this for my kids; they’ve graduated.  I don’t do this as a stepping stone to another political office!  I do this for ALL students in the district; from 3 to 73!  I visit the schools every year; talk to the principals and talk to the teachers.  I attend sporting events.  I volunteer where I can, when I can.  I market this district whenever and wherever I can.  I’ve made changes as the Board President, more transparency, with more to come.  I make common sense decisions and ask common sense questions after diligently reviewing our Board packet every month.  That’s my job!  I work hard at it and for that a former Board President said, “In its history, Ferndale has never had such a highly qualified school board member."  I’m proud to be only the 3rd Board President in the last 30 years.  I take my position seriously at that table.  I have the knowledge, I have the education, and I have the passion and dedication.  And with your common sense, I’ll have your vote. www.keithwarnick.com    www.ferndalecbe.org   

Thank you.

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