Miller,Van Noy and Panek earn writer’s endorsement

Positive change has come to the Howell K-8 School District as promised by Residents for Change, recently elected board members Jeanette Smith and Suzanne Brennan. They, along with board member Tim O’Brien, have made many positive, long-term changes.

First, the board has hired a professional labor negotiator to negotiate a new teachers’ contract. The current contract expires June 30, 2011. The board members have historically negotiated their contracts themselves, interestingly during a time where a clear majority of the board had some sort of union affiliation.

What have the incumbents done for the community? A three-year 3.75 percent payroll increase, or about $2 million annually, a 7 percent tax increase one year, a school closing, layoffs, and after-school programs for the students being cut. Quite a track record. Voting for incumbents this year will only bring more of the same.

What did Residents for Change promise during their campaign? A flat tax levy without loss of services to the students. And they delivered a flat tax levy and the return of all sports and clubs next year.

Also, the board now meets in private session at the beginning of its meetings instead of late in the evening, which had been the longstanding practice. This is significant because, in the past, the board came out of closed session and took controversial action, such as the extension of the administrators’ contract until 2011-12, excluding the public from questioning or commenting upon the action. Now, the board can be questioned at the time actions are taken.

Under [policy chair Jeanette] Smith, the board finally adopted a videotaping policy, and thanks to Mrs. Smith and Mr. O’Brien, more discussions are taking place in public, instead of behind closed doors, under some dubious “exception” to the Sunshine Law.

The pendulum is swinging in favor of the students and the taxpayers. To keep that momentum going, we must continue to change the face of the board to be more representative of the Howell community, and less aligned with the union leadership.

As union contract negotiations continue into the next school board cycle, it is critical for the board to have a majority that can fully participate in the process and represent our community. That is why I am endorsing the conflict-free candidates Al Miller, John Van Noy and Zig Panek, your MVPs for BOE.

Amy Fankhauser Howell