• Title: Rima Addiego: Candidate's Response to Forum Questions -2012
  • Author: Rima Addiego
  • Date: 08/30/2012
  • Additional Categories: ELPS: School Board Forum -2012

Rima Addiego: Candidate's Response to Forum Questions -2012

Candidate Forum FINAL Question #7
Due Date: 10/07/12 by 8pm

How should grades K-6 be configured? Specifically…

-Should Red Cedar be closed?

-Should a new 6th grade building be constructed?

-Is the current number of “school of choice” students to high, low or about right?

-Should the district build for increased, decreased or about the same capacity as it currently has

-Given the sale of the Timberlane property, where should the administration be housed?

Answer to Final Forum Question #7

Red Cedar was not chosen to have improvements in the February bond, and the only future that the board promised for it was that it would cease to be an Elementary building no later than the end of 2016.

The board has recently chosen NOT to move forward with a major Elementary building project this fall. At our recent work session a new concept emerged that we will be discussing further in the meetings to come. The basic project discussed would entail the building of a 6th grade wing at the middle school, using funds on hand. Further, 5 of our Elementary schools would become K5, and Red Cedar would house the administration, preschool and pre-kindergarten programs.

We currently have 5 classrooms scattered among different schools, that hold our youngest population. We need to move administration out of Timberlane by July 31st, 2013.

Red Cedar would, under this proposal, remain open and viable. There is significant board dialogue pertaining to enlarging our preschool footprint, perhaps adding a private program to this building.

Red Cedar remains the alternative choice because of fundamental facts that have not changed since the election. The Spartan Village development is slated for complete demolition in 2017. Although repeatedly asked, in public and private meetings, the university has been either unable or unwilling to commit to the plan for housing international students post 2017. For this reason we cannot assume that the international students from spartan village would always remain in the vicinity of the Red Cedar school. Additionally, this school has the highest school of choice population in the district by a factor of almost double in some cases. For whatever reason(s), the resident neighborhood surrounding Red Cedar is extreme small, and has been for some time. Over half of the students were school of choice. This is not the case in any other Elementary school. Further, Red Cedar is the third choice for incoming school of choice families, not the first and some lobbied last year.

The Spartan Village students are currently transported to Red Cedar by bus. So the choice of Red Cedar as the admin/preschool building was the most logical based on the demographics of its student body, and therefore would result in the least disruption to neighborhood children.

Additionally, the US Census report identified the residential areas surrounding Red Cedar as having experienced a 47% decline in school age population in the last 10 years. In contrast, many other neighborhoods have begun to show an increase in school age children in this same period.

The logical choice is to place Elementary schools in the neighborhoods where we are seeing resident growth. My driving priority for many decisions as a member of the board is "Will this cause an increase, or a decrease, in resident enrollment?" In this case, my efforts should be to focus the K5 schools in our neighborhoods with the highest potential for resident growth.

This new proposal would not close Red Cedar, but repurpose it. So if the population shows signs of growth, and/or MSU decides to rebuild Spartan Village in its current location, then at a later date the school board can re-examine the decision and, if necessary, make appropriate adjustments to the Elementary structure district wide. Nothing will have been done that cannot be undone.

I am fully in support of a 6th grade wing, believing the positives for student enrichment at this grade to be powerful! Reducing transitions has also been the second element of my decision making. First, does my decision have the potential to increase residential growth, and how can I eliminate a transition, which has been shown to have negative consequences for students.

The current school of choice population should not be increased. It doesn't make fiscal sense, since the state reimbursement is lower than for resident students. Further, as our community continues to grow, there will be less and less need to place school of choice students in these slots.

Were we to build, it has been recommended to us by state population experts, as well as school architects, that we build a small cushion into our enrollment projections that determine capacity. This way our hope, for additional resident enrollment growth, can be accommodated if necessary.

I have already addressed where I believe administration should be housed.

In closing, I want to thank Mr. Cuddeback and Mr. Weckesser for performing this community service and coordinating this forum. I have enjoyed the opportunity for another avenue for discussion.

It is my sincere hope that whoever sits on the board come January will put their best efforts towards the well being of our wonderful students and staff. It certainly doesn't accomplish educational goals to throw insults and uninformed criticisms at board members and staff.

The board is one body and speaks through it's votes. Joining the board means joining a team, of incredibly hard working and well meaning members. Working together for the good of our students is an incredibly important job, and a high honor. It's only by working together, respectfully and with integrity, real progress can be accomplished.

Thank you.

Candidate Forum Question #6
Due Date: 09/29/12 by 8pm

How should administrator compensation be determined? And, given the concerns that many residents have about academic performance, do you think that the board has a duty to define in objective, measurable standards, what is acceptable? Would you support making administration pay partly based upon public, definable, and measurable, standards versus more subjective measurers or simply comparisons to what other districts are doing?

Answer to Forum Question #6


Forum Question #5
Due Date: 09/23/12 by 8PM

Please discuss your thoughts on the role that extracurricular activities and athletics play in student development. Additionally, do you feel that the pay to play costs are appropriate?

Answer To Forum Question #5

No Submission!


Forum Question #4
Due Date: 09/19/12 by 8pm

As a board member one of your most important duties will be voting on labor agreements for both staff and management. The MEA is aggressively supporting Proposal 2 the “Protect our Jobs Amendment” or POJA. The attached MEA Memo indicates that, among other things, POJA could…

-Eliminate the requirement that teachers pay 20% of their health insurance costs (which would save ELPS millions over time)

-Eliminate the cap on pension contributions ( which, again, would save the district millions going forward)

-Open the door to making labor contracts (teachers & administrators) off limits to FOIA

-Eliminate teacher evaluation systems

-Disallow performance-based compensation

-Eliminate notifications to parents about ineffective teachers

-Adversely affect the use of volunteers and third party’s for non-instructional services

What do you think? Specifically, do you endorse the Protect of Jobs Amendment? How do you think it’s passage would affect the dist.

Protect Our Jobs Amendment

Answer to Question #4.

Bill is correct, one of the most critical aspects of board work is voting on labor contracts. But the vote is the end of the negotiations process. Prior to the vote there are many closed sessions to discuss negotiations proposals; issues that arise during the process that require board input, and towards the close of bargaining the board weighs in on tentative agreements that were proposed by one team or another.

There are several labor units and bargaining groups with whom the district negotiates to determine many aspects of the way in which we interact on a daily basis, as well as the specifics of how district employees are remunerated for their work. The details of each contract are different, pay scales and other elements of the employment agreements vary substantially. As with all school districts in the state, we work hard so that our bargaining reflects a sense of mutual respect and effective dialogue.

If enacted, this proposal could impact as many as 175 current statutes ranging in subject from teacher tenure, to evaluations, to FOIA policies, and many others. As some PR readers may know, we have been bargaining with our largest bargaining entity, the ELEA, (or local unit of the MEA,) since last spring. Hundreds of people hours have been expended by all, and there is a certain dignity to the negotiations process that I believe needs to be upheld. Because of the fact that many components of this proposal are directly related to contract language and elements currently under negotiation, I am personally not comfortable commenting on this proposal. I believe that it could compromise my position as a board member who may vote on proposed contracts between now and January 1. Negotiations are particularly delicate at this juncture because elements of current Michigan law are having real time effects in our teachers' pocketbooks.

I have genuinely enjoyed participating in this forum, and have spent a considerable amount of time addressing the questions. But in this case I must respectfully decline answering specifically to Bill's question.


Forum Question #3.

Some residents worry that the district is faltering academically. They cite data such as:

- The High School has dropped out of the top 1000 in the country and
out of the top 38 in Michigan, according to the 2012 Newsweek
rankings, down from 530th in the country and 6th in Michigan in 2007.

-In the Federally-approved Top-to-Bottom rankings calculated by the
Michigan Department of Education a few weeks ago, the district’s
average school score is significantly behind not only Okemos (6th in
Michigan) and Haslett (25th in Michigan), but now Williamston (85th)
too, placing it 100th in Michigan.

-In the Top-to-Bottom rankings, the middle school was ranked at the
41st percentile, meaning that it scored better than only 41 percent of
schools in Michigan and worse than 59 percent of schools in Michigan.

-Overall, the district has failed to make adequate annual progress
across all three Michigan Department of Education criteria.

What say you? And, if you agree that there's been slippage, what should be done?

Due Date: 09/12/12 (by 8PM)

Answer to Question #3.

Our ranking in the top to bottom Michigan Department of Education list
is something that has only served to reinforce our collective
commitment to looking at individual student achievement over time in
order to promote student growth and to intervene and support where
indicated. Our goal is to measure individual student growth, over
time, and not to focus as much on comparative outcomes. Although Bill
listed a few examples of measures, I would like to point out that
schools are being judged on multiple sets of criteria, which is
subject to a lot of scrutiny. We did not supply information to the
Newsweek ranking project, for example, so any rankings there would be
based on incomplete data at best. The US News and World Report uses
their own set of criteria, and have chosen East Lansing as a Silver
Medal High School for another year in a row. The Michigan Department
of Education rankings is the measure that has received the most
attention recently. Our school district has been implementing
improvement plans, school by school, student by student. Each year
the MDE rankings change, and it is wise not to draw conclusions based
on a one year comparison. I'd like to address some of the work we do
in East Lansing to address the varied needs of our student population.

Beginning in late 2010, East Lansing became an area leader in adopting
a multi-tiered system of support, called RTI, to identify students who
need support, and put in place specific and well articulated programs
for each student based on their unique needs. While there is a wide
spectrum of student achievement in East Lansing, our relatively new
system of support is a flexible intervention model. Every building
has a data team that look at common assessments, screening data,
teacher assessments from the classroom, as well as standardized

As a Board member, I expect our administrative team to understand data
and build it back into student improvement planning. We cannot and
not depend on exterior rankings to motivate or direct our work, but we
must analyze our data and use data to translate directly into
interventions - actions! The way that the public school system in
Michigan is organized, we have become more of a business, the system
sets up a climate of competition for every area student and family.
It's not a reality that we talk about, but it does exist. So that
rankings, and other measures that hit the papers do matter - if they
are critical to the true work of educators and boards or not, they can
affect perception, and thus can affect enrollment, which affects our
budget. We therefore need to acknowledge the fact that, although all
of our schools met AYP (adequate yearly progress) this year some of
them have been identified as focus schools. The irony of this model
is that we can currently meet AYP, but because the definition of a
focus school refers to the actual distance between the top and bottom
30% of our student population, and our student population is composed
of such a significant spread of ability, we can be identified with
what some consider a negative tag.

If we are succeeding in addressing the needs of all of our students,
and we make significant gains academically, and our graduation rate
increases, we could still have focus schools, because it is actually
the spread of our academic performance that warrants the term.
Certainly what we want to do is to continue to challenge the needs and
minds of ALL of our students - it is an odd box to be in. On many
levels I object to the terms themselves -science tells us that there
will always be something of a bell curve of cognitive abilities in any
population, in some populations the differences are more marked than
others. But why would we want to characterize schools, much less
students, with the label of low achievers, or even worse, "bottom"
achievers? It is an affront to the very system of public education
and I take great offense to the implications to our hard working
teachers and administrative team, who come to the classrooms every day
with the same goal - reaching young minds and making a difference
through education.

What our district's educators have taught me is that it is developing
relationships with students, often one on one in the classroom or
office, that truly makes a difference in student attitudes. It is
through motivation, the desire to succeed in the school setting, that
really paves the way to academic improvements and reaching significant
academic goals. The challenge is to learn how to teach differently to
different kids, and when you have 25 or more in each class, and 5 or
more sets a day, we are talking about a very significant body of work.
Although the challenge can be significant, our teachers are making a
difference in student lives in East Lansing on a daily basis.

Forum Question #2

What is the state of the East Lansing Public School System? And, what is its single most pressing problem, along with your solutions to it?
Due Date: 09/07/12 by 8 pm

Answer #2.

Public schools in Michigan are being challenged like never before. Since Proposal A was passed in the 1990's, schools began receiving most of their funding through a calculation dependent on enrollment. The state budget that funded schools now received it's dollars through a combination of sales tax and lottery funds. So, if the economy is
strong in Michigan, the school aid fund is flush, and there is money for schools. Likewise, in a slow or poor economy, schools suffer.

School districts have been receiving a steadily decreasing allocation per student each year due to declining state revenue. At the same time, costs of health care, the exploding costs of state pensions, etc., have placed enormous constraints on local budgets. In east
Lansing alone, the cost of state funded pensions came to 0ver $4.3 million dollars this past year.

Although costs at the state level have been an issue, and have been passed along to the local level, funding per pupil has been decreasing drastically. East Lansing is currently receiving nearly the same Foundation Allowance per pupil that we received in 2001/2002.

So, although costs have skyrocketed, and funding has plummeted, the current and former Governor have been attempting to raise awareness about the quality of education, and degree of performance, of Michigan
students. They are right to do so! Just because money is so tight, and operational costs so challenging, doesn't mean that we can take our eyes off the main focus of our work - student achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all areas of education. Although the funding
model is more of a retail/business model than ever before, our profound mission is to open the minds of these children to the wonders and excitement of learning.

East Lansing is a very unique school district in ways that are not immediately evident. One only needs to visit a Kindergarten classroom to see the range of developmental readiness that children bring school. It is our job and privilege to bring the thrill of learning,
and to foster academic growth to that young aspiring student, throughout their thirteen years in our school district. This is the true challenge of our district and of this time - successfully reaching each student and bringing them forward with relevant learning
and educational experiences. We are going way beyond the traditional classroom model with the RTI intervention program; the Stem Promise work in math and science; the AGTF initiative in collaboration with MSU and community leaders; the Professional Development aimed at
coaching our teachers in cultural diversity training; the new excel mentor program at the high school, and other concepts and programs.

These are just a few of the programs that the ELPS district is embracing to address the needs of our diverse learners. We must constantly look to learn about our students through intensive and ongoing data analysis, and then honestly address their unique needs and expectations.


Forum Question #1.

Would you please tell us about yourself and your relationships with the other board members and administrators? We’d also like to know why you’re running and what’s the most critical issue facing the district.
Due Date: 9/3/12 by 8pm.

Answer 1.

My name is Rima Addiego, my husband Raf and I moved to East Lansing 20 years ago and haven't looked back to the East Coast since. We have four children, two boys who graduated from East Lansing High School in 2011 and 2012, and our daughters are entering 10th and 8th grade this year. Raf and I met at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore where I have a degree in Clinical Psychology. I spent the next 10 years working in general business and commercial real estate in Philadelphia and New York.

I have been on the board for almost 9 years. I have been fortunate to develop strong working relationships with district administrators in my tenure, and have worked closely with my colleagues on the board. Since I have been on the board I have taken part in the hiring of more than 9 principals and assistant principals, the current Superintendent and other administrators. I have built solid working relationships based on straight forward communication and a record of student advocacy with administrators and board colleagues.

I am running for re-election to the School Board because I am committed to continuing the work I've started in academic achievement for all students; continued budget oversight to ensure that necessary resources are directed into our classrooms to the greatest extent possible; providing our students with special needs and their families with access to needed programs and services; developing policies that serve as a framework and guide for the work of the district; maintaining our school facilities and ensuring tax dollars are allocated wisely.

The biggest challenges facing our district are conserving an ever shrinking budget from the state from which to educate our students; meeting the needs of our diverse student body in a time of constantly shifting state requirements and complex social and cultural climates in East Lansing, and determining appropriate next steps for our Elementary facilities.

Rima Addiego