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August 15, 2003 - Image 66

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-08-15

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Cover Story

Progress Report

Finishing his first year as superintendent, Dr. Gary Faber
is bullish on the West Bloomfield Schools.


Stwqr Writer


public schools have no longer received their primary
funding through property taxes. Instead, the governor
and the state legislature each year establish a foundation
allowance — a per-pupil allotment raised mainly by
sales taxes.
Although this was touted as a way to bring all dis-
tricts to a certain basic standard of funding, unrelated to
the economic status of their residents, public schools
still have varying levels of foundation allowances.
Districts such as West Bloomfield that had higher lev-
els of funding before Proposal A have not seen increases
that keep up with the cost of living. In addition, since

"They have no problem getting along," he said. "I
don't even know who the 'choice' students are."
A new West Bloomfield Schools Foundation is seek-
ing alternative areas for revenue, including endowments
and program grants. Among them is a possible robotics
grant from Ford Motor Company.
On the cost-cutting side of the ledger, the district has
restructured administratively, eliminating the deputy
superintendent position Dr. Faber held before becoming
superintendent. Energy sources are now purchased inde-
pendently and billed in a more efficient manner; over-
time and transportation costs were reduced; and teachers
were offered incentives to retire early.
"The focus has been to make cuts in areas
that are furthest away from the child," Dr.

short press release from the West Bloomfield
School District told it all: "Teachers Agree
to Defer Raises to Help Offset Budget
The June 2 agreement will save the district more than
$800,000 for the coming fiscal year. It's believed to be
the first such concession in Michigan, during a time
when nearly all public school districts are facing budget
The agreement revises the final year of a
two-year contract that would have provid-
ed West Bloomfield teachers with 3 percent
raises. Instead, the teachers, represented by
the Michigan Education Association,
agreed to defer those raises until January
WorkingWith Minorities
2004. This effectively reduces their pay
raises to 1.5 percent for this coming year.
The 55-year-old superintendent said he
"The concessions by the faculty could
"feels good about the many initiatives taken
not have occurred without a trusting envi-
to balance the budget."
ronment; an environment of true profes-
"We behave in a manner consistent with
sionalism and great relationships between
our beliefs. We are here to care for, nurture
all facets of the school community," said
and participate in the growth experience for
Dr. Gary Faber, who took over as superin-
every child."
tendent of the 6,600-student district last
Dr. Faber moved to West Bloomfield 27
years ago, with his wife, Sandi, and children,
In an interview last year with the Jewish
Seth and Lindsay. He was first hired by the
News, Dr. Faber said he saw no let-up in
school district in 1983, as principal of West
the economic squeeze on Michigan's public
Bloomfield High School.
schools. This year, the superintendent
"I was principal when the community was
At a video-taped interview at West Bloomfield's Roosevelt Elementary School, recognizing the need to work responsibly
reviewed some of the ways West
Dr. Gary Faber is questioned by Cristina Ochoa, 10, of West Bloomfield.
Bloomfield schools have capped the drain
with its minority populations," he said. "I
on fund equity without impacting the
can honestly say that we have worked at all
quality of education.
levels to develop sensitivity. Our district pre-
Before last school year began, the West Bloomfield
state funding is based on each district's student count, a
pares students to live in a global society — the commu-
schools cut $1 million from its general fund budget of
decline in school population has meant a decline in rev-
nity itself is a global society.
$65 million, and $2.9 million has been reduced for
"Yes, there have been transition issues," he said. "But
next year.
Finally, for the coming school year, there will be no
I'm proud of our students. And I'm proud of our facul-
"We were able to do this thanks to timely, open com-
increase in the foundation allowance at all.
ty, down the line."
munication," Dr. Faber said. "I believe we are greater
To make up for funding lost because of declining
A graduate of Detroit's Henry Ford High School, Dr.
and stronger by having greater input from the commu-
school population, West Bloomfield accepts out-of-dis-
Faber was one of very few Jewish students throughout
trict students through the schools of choice program.
his years at Fitzgerald Elementary School in northwest
In addition to the monthly school board meetings,
This voluntary program, which comes up for re-
any citizen can come to committee meetings, he said.
approval by the district's school board every year, gives
"People say that you carry your elementary school
Community members also can sign up for a broadcast
West Bloomfield the foundation grant that would have
experience with you all your life," he said, "and I think
e-mail system, which disseminates in-depth school
gone to the 'choice' student's home district.
that experience has made me a sensitive listener and a
For next year, about 10 percent of the district's stu-
information and relevant community information.
person who can temper judgment to be understanding
dents will commute from 18 other Oakland County
"We did a major survey of the entire community,
of the plight of minorities."
using it as a base for long-term planning," Dr. Faber
communities, Dr. Faber said. Although West
Dr. Faber's college years were spent at Detroit's
Bloomfield cannot select the students, it does specify
Wayne State University, where he earned bachelor's,
how many young people in what grades it can accept
master's and Ed.D. degrees.
every year. Students do not have to get permission from
A member of Temple Israel, Dr. Faber and his wife
Balancing The Budget
their home district to leave.
led a synagogue-sponsored trip to Israel. He is also a fre-
When it comes to balancing their budgets, individual
"The program has been very successful," Dr. Faber
quent speaker at the West Bloomfield synagogue's adult
school districts are limited in what measures they can
said, adding that the largest numbers of out-of-district
discussion groups.
take, Dr. Faber said.
students have come from the Walled Lake, Waterford
"I bring my heritage to everything I do in my life,"
Since the 1994 passage of Proposal A, Michigan's
and Pontiac schools.
he said. Fl

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