School Beat – September 3, 2009

Three issues demand attention, time

Superintendent of Schools Rockford Public Schools

With the passing of each year, the summer months seem to fly by faster than in previous years even though each day of each year has the same number of minutes and hours!

It is hard to believe that I have the privilege of beginning my 21st year as superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools (RPS). Where did the first 20 years go? While I realize we have together accomplished many good things for RPS kids, I also realize we have many more yet to accomplish.

This summer has been very busy with many issues demanding our attention and time. In this article, I want to touch on three of those issues: bond issue projects, financial challenges, and the district’s new website.

Bond Issue Projects
If you will recall, the 2008 bond issue was designed to accomplish three major projects: add four to eight classrooms to six of our eight elementary schools, update instructional technology in all schools, and add 20 recreational/athletic fields throughout the school district.

Many of these projects are either in the planning stages or nearing completion. For example, additional classrooms at Cannonsburg, Lakes and Roguewood elementaries are well underway. New carpeting is being laid throughout the high school—believe it or not, the high school is over 16 years old! The tennis courts at North Rockford Middle School and the high school are being replaced, and construction of athletic fields at the high school, East Rockford Middle School and Roguewood Elementary are ahead of schedule. Upgrades in instructional technology will continue throughout the summer.

Comprehensive improvements to Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium took place this summer, with the installation of a multi-purpose synthetic field for use by the marching band, along with football, lacrosse, track, and other student-athletes. The new technology in athletic fields is called Mondo turf, which utilizes an environmentally friendly, bio-degradable substance called Eco-fill. The rededication of “The Ted” is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3, prior to the Rockford-Holt varsity football game. I hope you can attend.

All other 2008 bond issue projects are in the planning or early development stages. Please refer to the district’s webpage at for ongoing progress reports.

Financial Challenges
As you know, the State of Michigan has been experiencing a financial crisis for the past seven years, which directly impacts all publicly supported services, including public schools throughout the state. Over 80 percent of our funding comes from the state and, with a freeze or possible reduction in funding this year, our seven-year adjustment average will be just over one percent.

All Michigan school districts have implemented major cuts for this coming school year, and RPS is no exception. Last June, the Rockford Board of Education cut $2.1 million from the 2009-10 budget, making a concerted effort to stay away from the classroom. If Michigan’s financial crisis continues without constructive solutions, public schools will continue to implement radical cuts in 2010-11. I have been asked many times, “How can RPS be adding new classrooms, fields and technology, yet be making budget cuts?” State law is clear on funding allocations: revenue from bond issues cannot be used for operating purposes. In other words, day-to-day operating monies cannot be co-mingled with bond issue revenues.

One approach to staying informed on school issues and to be involved in a constructive way is through the Kent County Grassroots initiative called Friends of Kent County Schools. If you are interested in being part of this initiative, please send your e-mail address to my assistant, Marlene Clark, at, and she will add you to the information list.

 District’s Revised Website
One of the 2008 bond issue projects is to upgrade the district’s current website. Clear communication between the schools and the community is one of our major priorities. The new website will be more user-friendly, streamlined and informative. The site is a living entity and our goal is to provide up-to-date and relevant information for all users. The new site went live on August 1. I am very interested in your opinion and suggestions, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

As Michigan continues to experience a very tough economy, we at Rockford Public Schools will continue to do our very best to provide a first-class education to all students, as well as to provide educational and recreational opportunities for our entire community.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at (616) 863-6557 or at with questions, concerns or suggestions. Thank you.

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