Five people are vying for three seats on Northville's school board in the November election and Northville 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 Northville Township resident Cynthia Jankowski, who is a Lease Support Specialist at Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust in Farmington Hills. Jankowski was appointed to the school board in January to replace longtime board member Joan Wadsworth, who resigned.
Q: Number of years a resident of Northville school district?
Q: Number of children, if any, in Northville Public Schools?
Son, sixth grader at Meads Mill Middle School
Q: What prompted you to run for a seat on Northville's school board?
After being appointed to Joan Wadsworth’s seat in January 2012, I am invigorated and fulfilled by being more involved with, not only our son’s education, but that of all children in the NPS District. I had been a very involved parent at Silver Springs, and wanted to take my volunteer commitment to the next level, and felt I could offer a common sense approach to the issues
facing the District.
Q: What kinds of experiences – professional, educational or otherwise – make you an unique and qualified candidate?
First and foremost, being the only Mom on the ballot gives me a unique perspective. No disrespect to my colleagues on the Board, or to the candidates, but quite frankly, parents may arrive at the same conclusion, but the thought process taken by each is entirely different. With always a look at the bottom line on the balance sheet, the Board has been forced to run the District more and more like a business, and I want to make sure we keep the proper perspective
– the future of our children. To that end, the same analytical process that has been successful for me in my paralegal career, will be utilized in my role as a Board member – determine the facts, review the pros and cons, have open dialogue with Central Office staff, community members and Board colleagues, and resolve issues together for the good of our children.
While I am currently employed in the public sector, my 8+ years in the aviation industry as a public sector employee and union member, provides me with a better understanding of both sides of the coin. I envision this knowledge will assist me in being resolution-oriented when contract negotiations begin after the first of the year.
Q: What new ideas do you hope to bring to the table?
I would like to see parents become more involved in their child’s future. Attending the committee of the whole meetings, usually held the opposite Tuesday from the Board meetings, is where information is disseminated by the Central Office staff, discussed among the Board, and the Board determines whether the issue is ready to be placed on the agenda or more research is required. Attending these meeting would be insightful to parents in understanding our thought processes on any given issue. The meetings are open to the public, and citizen comments are welcome.
I would also encourage parents to become more involved with the LAN (Legislative Action Network) representatives at their school. The Board is a small group, making decisions they feel are essential for your child’s future, but we can’t do it alone. LAN offers the latest news happening in Lansing and how you can contact your representatives. If the Board could encourage a more grassroots involvement by the parents, perhaps Lansing would be more responsive. Call their office, send correspondence, meet Rep. Heise at his coffee hours, write to Senator Colbeck and voice your concerns. Remember the old adage – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Voice your opinion and often.
Lastly, I would encourage creative alternatives to funding in the District. The cooperative agreement we reached with the Tom Holzer Family, is just one way that community involvement could provide the stopgap funding for smaller projects. Did you know that Ms. Shipli Sharma, Captain of the Girl’s Swim Team, was successful in securing a $10,000 donation from Panasonic towards the purchase of a new scoreboard for the NHS pool? I believe there are endless possibilities to work together with our community business leaders to fund projects which would not be possible for the District through its operating budget.
Q: What do you foresee as the biggest issue facing Northville Public Schools in the coming school year? How would you address those issues, if elected?
The budget will continue to be the main issue for NPS. Making sure we receive every dollar of eligible foundation allowance, while holding expenses at the current level, will be a huge challenge this year. With teacher contract negotiations approaching, and with the unknown outcome of Proposal 2, the District’s ability to negotiate contracts within the same framework as used in the past, may be compromised.
In the past two years, the District has saved almost $10,000,000, through contract concessions, the outsourcing of food, transportation and custodial, and proactive measures. Should these savings be lost, the District’s structural deficit will increase. This remarkable accomplishment was both painful and controversial, but if these savings are lost, detrimental results will be felt in the classroom.
Q: What do you regard as the district's successes? How would you continue or improve upon these areas, if elected?
The single most amazing accomplishment I experienced as a participant in the graduation ceremony of the Class of 2012 was not only a 95.6% graduation rate, but of the 497 seniors, 317 graduated with an honors designation. This, coupled with the success of our athletic teams this year, speaks highly of the programs the district offers in the classroom and beyond. Thank you to the teachers, the staff, the coaches, the counselors, the parents and anyone I may have missed, who mentored, who counseled, who encouraged these young people to succeed early in life. These are traits for success that they will take with them into their future.
The District’s initiative to place a Technology Bond on the ballot, will allow the District to enhance its classroom experience. Further discussion on the Technology Bond appears below.
Q: Around the country, state and in Northville, school budgets continue to be an issue districts grapple with. What areas of the budget would be your biggest priority, if elected? Where do you see the most room for cuts, if needed?
Prior to my service, the Board made difficult decisions to streamline its operating budget, and there is not much room to find more cuts, without reductions to staff, electives and extra- curricular activities or seeing larger class sizes. Eighty percent of the District’s operating budget is dedicated to teacher salaries, benefits and retirement, and unless the teacher’s union can work cooperatively with its members on retirement reforms, our District will have to make choices which will be unpopular and painful. Reaching a compromise to increase salaries, lower retirement contributions and allow members to receive tax benefits through 401k-type contributions, may be a more workable solution than what currently exists.
Approval of the technology bond would supplement the class room environment in many ways. Through the use of Smartboards and Promethean boards, teachers could streamline classroom learning by using Core Curriculum software already available, supplement their lessons plans with Internet information and learning tools for a more individualized approach, and then download each day’s lecture on Moodle for reinforcement at home, or for students who were absent from class. With this technology enhancement, we provide new and innovative ways to support all of our NPS children, no matter what their level of learning.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Please be an informed voter. Read the language of the proposals on the ballot. Read the candidate’s statements. Ask questions of your candidates, attend community forums, and know the pros and cons of the issues on the ballot. Only then, can we all make informed choices. I welcome your questions and comments at Cyndy.Jankowski@comcast.net. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on working together for a better future for our children.