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$8.4 Million Bond, School Board Spot on November Ballot for Fenton Schools

Newcomers Dior Rushton and Drew Shapiro are challenging Incumbent Sandra Mathews-Barnes for a spot on the Fenton School Board.

While many politicians have been talking about education in efforts to get elected, there are a couple issues that will affect Fenton Area Public Schools directly on the November ballot.

Three candidates are vying for a four-year term on the Fenton Board of Education and school officials are trying to pass an $8.4 million bond proposal.

Newcomers Dior Rushton and Drew Shapiro are challenging incumbent Sandra Mathews-Barnes for a spot on the Fenton school board.

Mathews-Barnes, who served as a librarian in the Flushing School District for many years, earned her spot on the board in 2008. She said she is proud of what the school has accomplished.

“I want to see us continue because our kids deserve it,” she said.

Rushton said she has lived in the Fenton School District for 18 years and has two children in Fenton schools.

 “The school board is a great way to become engaged with the community,” she said. “I would welcome more parental involvement with the school board.”

Shapiro, a 2006 graduate of Fenton High School, said the school taught him to be a leader and he believes he is ready to lead. He wants to implement a mentor lunch program that connects students and local business owners.

 “I’ve been inspired by the struggles of my peers. Many of them have been unable to start their futures and struggled to find viable career paths,” he said.

Fenton school officials also will try to pass an $8.4 million bond after a $9.6 million bond failed in May. The bond failed by less than 200 votes.

The new proposal is focused on technology, school buses and increasing safety and security. It dropped all traffic and parking projects from the prior proposal and shortened the bond by two years, making the proposal more than $1 million less this time around. The bond will cost owners of a $120,000 home an average of $60 a year.

"We tried to get feedback from the community and the No. 1 reason people didn't support it was the parking and traffic issues," said Fenton superintendent Dr. Timothy Jalkanen. "As far as technology, safety and the busses people seemed to recognize the need. "Our focus has stayed the same, but the board has listened to the community."

The $6.4 million technology part of the bond include:

  • A wireless access in all buildings
  • Computer labs in all buildings
  • Classroom computer labs for business, publications, TV/video and computer aided design and drafting classes
  • Electronic whiteboards
  • Computer servers
  • Digital presentation tools

The  $300,000 safety and security part of the bond will include:

  • Replacing the security system at Fenton High School
  • Installing additional security in all schools and add cameras and radios to busses.
  • Replacing the phone system

The $1.4 million transportation part of the bond will include the ability to purchase 16 new buses over 10 years.

"We are trying to get the word out," Jalkanen said. "We expect a much better turnout with the presidential election this time."

You can view a video explaining the bond proposal in more detail on the Fenton School's website.

Jason Alexander October 10, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Will you be supporting the Fenton bond proposal this time around? Why or why not?
Drew Shapiro October 11, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Jason, I think it is crucial that the students in our district are provided with up to date technology. The cost per tax payer is very reasonable considering the number of improvements that will be taking place.
Mike October 22, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I am a little confused regarding how my property taxes really do support the school system since there was already a renewal of a mileage supplemental to the taxes specifically for maintenance, and they are requesting more money for replacement of buses and the infamous "technology upgrades" without providing a detailed plan. While these seem very noble goals, why does the Fenton school district continuously expect the property owners to pay the costs while they incur costs to implement the international baccalaureate program district wide? Should we presume, based on their priority of budgeted expenditures that they value this program over the technology, equipment, and safety upgrades since the IB program made it into the budget and these did not, or was are these the topics that it is felt the voters couldn't say "no" to when asked for more money. Has anyone asked where the funds for establishing two bond proposals and having them put on the ballot came from? According to the Tri-County Times, the first one cost approximately $15,000, so one would expect the second vote to cost at least as much. When will the school system realize that the community is having financial issues of its own, with the average middle class income decreasing $5,400 in the last four years and learn how to develop a sustainable budget with existing funds, regardless if the additional taxes are considered by some as very reasonable? No I won't be voting for it this time around either.
Drew Shapiro October 22, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Mike, to my knowledge I am the only school board candidate to even mention the IB program so far in my campaign. Although I do agree with the real world applications that it teaches I also have concerns about the implementation of the program itself. I have made it public that I would want the board to do a cost benefit analysis of the program to determine its future. I will also make it a point to have future proposals like this one itemized so the community can see exactly how much each whiteboard, or school bus will cost. Lastly i have mentioned in the past that I will encourage the board to look for cost saving measures outside of the classroom, that will have the least amount of impact on students.
Don October 25, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Fenton does not need new buses. Most of the kids do not ride the bus. The district has made it such a distance for kids to get the bus stop that the parents just drive their kids to school. Go take a look at the Fenton middle school at around 7am to see all the cars. This is a corrupt maneuver by the Fenton School District to pass the busing expense off onto the parents. Now they are asking for more money for the buses when they are already robing us of what we are paying for and don't get..

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