Dr. Glenn Maleyko

Clarification on High School Student Capacity Issues, Potential Boundary Line Changes, and Other Potential Solutions to Alleviate Capacity Issues at Dearborn High and Fordson.

Happy Saturday Everyone,

I am sending this blog post to clarify a lot of misinformation and rumors that are out there regarding capacity issues at the high schools in Dearborn, potential expansion of buildings, and potential boundary line changes for high school students.  There is a lot of inaccurate information out there including an inaccurate media report that was published on May 5. I want to be clear that the Board of Education and Administration have not made any decisions in regards to any of the mentioned areas including potential boundary line changes.  The fact is that we have capacity issues at both Dearborn High and Fordson as those populations continue to grow. However, in the grand scheme of things this is really a good problem to have.  Many other districts would love to be in our position with student population growth, a vibrant and successful academic curricular model, innovative programs, a very supportive parent and community group in Dearborn, along with financial stability. We are the 3rd largest district in the state and projected to go over 21,000 students next year. We are also one of the largest employers in the area with over 2600 employees. Our graduation rates just reached 93% the highest of all time and we have many successful graduates that are doing well in college and other post secondary options and careers.

The Board and I have also decided to be very transparent about our school capacity discussions which is why we have been holding the discussions on potential solutions in the public. We will continue to do so in a transparent manner but would like to stress that they are just discussions at this point and that there have been no final decisions. Since they are held in the public community members will hear a variety of ideas but until there is formal approval they are just that “ideas”. The public is welcome to attend any of the meetings to hear the dialogue or they can watch the meetings on the Dearborn Public Schools Television station. We also archive all meetings on our website via youtube. Here is the link. https://dearbornschools.org/district/board-of-education

Here are some of the Facts regarding capacity issues and potential solutions:

  • The Board of Education and Administration are being proactive to study this issue of high school student capacity so that we can plan for 3 to 5 and even 10 years down the road. This will ensure that we continue to provide a high quality education for our students now and in the future.
  • I directed two cabinet members Mr. Abe Mashhour Director of Student Services and Mr. Tom Wall Executive Director of Business and Operations to create a capacity steering committee to study this issue back in November of 2016. The committee included representation from administration, faculty, parents/community members, and the Board of Education. The committee provided me and the Board with recommendations in April of 2017 which were sent to the full Board.
  • The Board of Education and I then scheduled a May 1, 2017 study session to start a dialogue with regards to this issue.   Here are the links to the open meeting that was posted and open to the public.  

Part 1    https://youtu.be/kOrGZ3xlAFM

Part 2   https://youtu.be/6rfQkAUMNfY

  • The study session was an initial dialogue and no formal decisions were made and the board did not take action on any items. Again this was the start of a dialogue that could take several months or even longer to solve this issue.
  • There have been no decisions on any boundary changes nor will there be a decision at the May 8 board meeting or anytime soon. If we were to move in that direction it would take several months(maybe even up to a half a year or more) as we would set up meetings at the high schools to acquire the input of the community.
  • The May 8 Board meeting at 7pm is a regular scheduled meeting and not a special meeting to discuss the capacity issue. However, capacity along with the potential expansion of Dearborn High and school of choice are on the agenda as discussion items. We are doing this to again continue with the dialogue on this issue in the public which had just started recently.
  • We plan to continue to study enrollment trends and use outside consultants and SEMCOG to assist us with the acquisition of the best estimate of short and long term enrollment trends. However, we are concerned that Fordson is approaching 3000 students and Dearborn high is approaching 2100 students. We definitely need to do something to alleviate this both short and long term.
  • We are currently implementing minor renovations at both Fordson and Dearborn High to create more space. However, those renovations provide a limited amount of additional space which is why building expansion is a necessary option at some point.
  • One of the options that was discussed to alleviate the capacity issues include a new high school at a very rough estimated cost with land acquisition of between $70-90 million. This would take at least 5 years to implement but likely longer and would require a major bond going to the taxpayers.  
  • Another option is the boundary line changes that could get Fordson down to around 2200 students within several years and prevent it from growing to 3000 and then stabilizing at around 2700 to 2800 students, which is very large for a high school. There would be very little additional cost to this model thus saving taxpayers money.
  • As mentioned we are seriously looking at much needed building expansion at Dearborn High which is necessary regardless of boundary line changes. A decision on this potential expansion would need to come soon if we want the expansion to be ready for students by the 2018-19 school year.
  • The elimination of school of choice and Boundary Exemptions is also being discussed and seriously considered to assist with alleviating capacity issues.
  • Another option that was recommended by the capacity committee and discussed on May 1 includes a 9th grade academy for Fordson.
  • Additional options that were discussed which would be helpful but would not solve the capacity issues include: moving the Russ Gibb Studio to the Berry Center where students from all high schools could participate, expansion of the Early College and Dual Enrollment classes(We are already doing that), the creation of an International Baccalaureate Program at Edsel, the movement of the middle school STEM program to Smith, and expansion of the CTE program at the Berry Center. Again, these would be helpful but would not provide a sustainable long term solution for the capacity issues.

In closing, the Board and I want everyone to know that we will continue to serve in the best interest of our community and our students. Dearborn is a great place to be with a vibrant economy and a very successful school district. The Board of Education and I are confident that in partnership with the community we are up for the challenge to have tough but important conversations to solve the capacity issues at the high school level. We will also continue to keep our vision in the forefront. Students First: Inspire, Educate, Celebrate.   

Again this is really a great problem to have as many other communities and Districts would love to have the problem that we face with an increase in student population and an extremely successful school district. Many districts in Wayne County and Michigan have had to face tougher challenges with a reduction in student enrollment and reduced funding which has sometimes resulted in school closures. Dearborn is not in that state as we have a very healthy, dynamic, and growing district that has experienced a great deal of success as we continue to make a difference for the community and students that we serve.