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Superintendent: Plymouth-Canton Bond Addresses Immediate Needs

Jeremy Hughes says bond will replace aging Central Middle School, help buildings meet technological demands.

When Plymouth-Canton voters head to the polls May 7, they'll consider a $114 million bond proposal to replace an aging Central Middle School, replace buses and upgrade technology throughout the district.

Superintendent Jeremy Hughes shared the district's case for the bond Monday with parents at a forum at the Canton Public Library, stressing the urgency of some of the pending expenditures.

The $114 bond proposal, which Hughes said would not increase the district's current millage rate of 4.1 mills if passed, will replace Central Middle School with a new building on district-owned property at Canton Center and Cherry Hill roads in Canton, install fiberoptic networking throughout the district, add tablet devices and laptop computers to each K-12 student, make building improvements and gradually replace the district's outdated fleet of buses.

Hughes said if the bond is approved, voters would opt to hold the rate from an existing millage at 4.1 mills rather than decreasing to 3.75, or about $35 a year for owners of a $200,000 home. 

Among the urgent needs facing the district, Hughes said, is replacing an aging Central Middle School with a building that creates an equitable learning experience between the district's five middle schools. In addition, Hughes said, about 25 of the district's 130 buses need replacement to ensure continued safety. Additional computer labs in each building also will ensure each building can accommodate changes to the current paper-and-pencil MEAP test to a state-mandated online assessment in 2014. 

With the new middle school, Hughes said, the district would redraw its current boundaries to make more geographic sense. Currently, he said, 73 percent of middle schoolers in the district reside in Canton, yet many commute to four of the district's Plymouth-based middle schools.

The timeline for the improvements are as follows:

  • New middle school: 2013-2015
  • Additions to existing middle schools: 2013-2014
  • Technology improvements (fiberoptic installation, etc.): 2014-2016
  • Classroom technology: 2014-2018
  • Generaly facility improvements: 2016-2018
  • Bus purchases: 2014-2018

The election will take place May 7. The final day to register to vote is April 8, and the final day to vote absentee is May 6.

Will you support this millage? Tell us why or why not in our comments below.

dswan April 10, 2013 at 12:40 PM
DeeDee, you've made it clear that your statements are based on subjective feelings. I am more interested in objective observations backed up with sources. The readers of this thread can determine which method of reasoning they wish to consider or ignore.
dswan April 10, 2013 at 12:45 PM
It's been my experience that it's the administration that chooses to do nothing. They read a book and have a "bucket filling" assembly once per year and that's were attempts to control bullying stop. Raise an issue to the principal and it's: "We didn't see that happen, we can't do anything." When there's 200 kids on the playground supervised by a small group of parapros grouped together near the building; makes sense that no adults see anything.
dswan April 10, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Our last discussion was on a Northville Patch article, my family and I live in Canton. You can deny that I'm local all you want. Just know that there's a large population of locals that question the policies of P-CCS, it's administration, and it's school board; as demonstrated my the many comments on this article. I support the efforts by StudentsFirst that advocate for hiring decisions based on performance not seniority.
dswan April 10, 2013 at 12:51 PM
No bond money required for the project and the schools even get a lower dollar amount per kid. Tax money wasted?
Danielle April 12, 2013 at 03:52 AM
@Seth What do you mean by "people can and will relocate to Canton that already exist?" I think you are meaning already-born individuals? Even taking those folks into account SEMCOG has predicted that this district would lose over 20% of its school-age population from 2005-2015, which we've seen evidence of in elementary schools. Their newer prediction indicates a 21.5% decrease between now and 2040. We should not be building new anything! Roughly, over the last 15 years we've opened 2 elementary schools under the school board's prediction of increasing population and then CLOSED 2 elementary schools. Schools are long-term investments, this board doesn't seem to understand that.
Danielle April 12, 2013 at 04:10 AM
@DeeDee We are a poor community. Our school district's median income might be twice the national average, but poverty exists in Plymouth-Canton. Don't forget that. The recent decision to close Fiegel got rid of our poorest and lowest-performing elementary school, spreading lower income students around the district. But that does not eliminate poverty.
Seth Furlow April 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM
@Danielle...yes, I mean people who from other communities will move to PCCS. I am familiar with the SEMCOG data but let's take a minute and think about what their numbers are based on. The most recent data projections is derived from the last several years where this region has seen massive economic stagnation, implosion of home prices and values, and a decreased purchasing power by the average household. Do you really think this is the most accurate data? Do you think these trends will really continue? What do you think organizations like SEMCOG would have to say about the 1950s, a time of massive economic growth, based on data from the 1930s during the height of the great depression? Drive around south Canton right now and then come back and tell me this downward trend will continue. The new middle school is being built to fulfill an immediate need. Central needs to be closed, a building will need to replace it. If not, the MS populations will be almost 1,000 students each! You also need to look at where the new elementary schools are compared to where the closed elementary schools are. Workman is bursting at the seems. More than 70% of all current MS students live in Canton. It's the right time to do this, for a ZERO increase to your tax dollars!
Danielle April 12, 2013 at 06:10 PM
@Seth, First I'll say that if PCCS has statistics supporting growth, I would hope they would have released them. If you want to dig into the statistics at SEMCOG, I suggest we do so honestly. SEMCOG's numbers are not projections as you say, they are forecasts. The difference is great; a projection uses a mathematical formula while a forecast uses trends and additional knowledge (the ending recession, P-C as a popular community, etc) alongside the math. SEMCOG's forecast is not based solely on the last 7 years of data. It is actually developed by the Institute of Industrial and Labor Relations at UofM based on the REMI model, which is much more complicated than a linear projection. Things their forecast includes: baby boomers living longer in retirement and aging in place, increasing the portion of P-C residents w/out kids; Gen Xers are different and are becoming the majority of our population of child-bearing age; Gen Xers have tended to wait longer to purchase a home (which most of our district’s housing stock is made up of), have waited longer to have children, and are having fewer children. Just as our SB proposes this MS w/out evidence of growth, building in Canton doesn’t mean growth is coming. Lastly, we're given no current cost estimates to provide updates to Central and thus have nothing which to compare the bond to. There is missing data throughout the bond but voters are presented with only 2 options, to be "For" or "Against" public ed. and that's not right.
Seth Furlow April 12, 2013 at 11:28 PM
@Danielle...I can't really argue the details of any forecast or trend projection as I am not a demographer. We'll have to agree to disagree about the future of the enrollment of P-CCS. In terms of the cost to renovate Central, you are incorrect that the district has not looked into this. It has been discussed at each of the presentations I have been to, and they have discussed industry standards related to new construction vs renovation and each of the studies they have done have shown the cost of renovating Central to not be cost effective vs. building a new building. Central is being closed no matter what. Do not overlook the technology components of this bond either. These are way beyond due, absolutely necessary, and will have a huge benefit to staff and students alike. The cost to tax payers is zero, how is this a bad deal? There is too much to be gained to not vote YES.
DownUpside1 April 13, 2013 at 02:10 AM
I went to a presentations and can see that they have put a LOT of effort into being cost effective. The life expectacy of a bus is basically 10 years. There are currently buses in service that are older than that. We've all been in the position of having to replace a vehicle...PCCS faces the same problem. Technology is also a necessity. In a few years the MEAP (or similar test) will be computer based (no more slips of paper with pencil filled ovals). All schools in the state have to be prepared with computer access for all students taking the tests (at the same moment in time just like a paper test). They also talked about why a new middle school instead of renovating. Both were costed out. It is a contractor advisement that if the cost of renovating is at or above 60% of building a new (which is the case now), the new building is the better choice - because when renovating, it is very likely and expected that there will be unforseen costs for additional surprise discovery work. Those are just the highlights. I suggest that anyone who really wants to research, should check out the PCCS presentation http://www.pccs.k12.mi.us/sites/pccs.k12.mi.us/files/shared/district/bond2013/Bond2013Presentation.pdf One thing I am pretty sure of, if the bond isn't passed, these projects WILL move forward, they will just be paid for out of the general budget with classrooms taking the monetary hit.
DownUpside1 April 13, 2013 at 02:44 AM
I wanted to devote another post to why we need 5 middle schools. The district believes that middle schools work best when the student body is around 750/school. Page 31 of the link I posted above shows the middle school population projections for the coming years. In order to keep with 750/school, they need 5. Discussions about how the charter schools will be adding middle school grades is just 'noise' in my opinion. They will be adding those grades as the students they currently have enrolled in the lower grades age up into middle school. If there was demand for them to offer those grades now, they would. On pages 25 to 30 of the link, the current middle school population is laid out. 73% of the middle school population lives south of Joy Road. There is only 1 middle school south of Joy Road. An additional school in Canton would bring it closer to the families it serves AND save on transportation costs.
Danielle April 13, 2013 at 05:12 PM
That is fine if you’d like to disagree, but merely deciding to disagree about something when lacking facts does nothing to help the policy process. I just hope you will look into the figures SEMCOG has developed, and the district has used to project 650 fewer middle schoolers by 2018. I understand the district has looked into costs to renovate Central. They are expensive; though less than building new. I haven’t heard the district discuss the costs associated with a vacant Central. If we build a new middle school there are going to be numerous continuous costs associated with Central and taxpayers are going to be footing that bill. Just like we have with Starkweather. While it’s unreasonable to assume the school board have a buyer lined up for the property, there is no indication of a market existing for it as a structure or a location. There are many visible vacant spaces in DTP. This very website even has a “Visions for Vacancies” column. Building new & moving out could cost us lots in keeping up Central long-term. (1/2)
Danielle April 13, 2013 at 05:13 PM
It’s sad that the school board will not give the community the option to update Central. Voters in district have already rejected proposals to build a new middle school twice. Had the school board listened to the people and moved forward on planning updates after either of those failed bonds, the costs to update would be less than they are now. The longer they wait and ignore voters, the more they increase reno. costs and force the hand of residents. The last bond for $62 million planned to build a new school and included renovating Central to become the new home of Starkweather. So it’s clear the building is not a lost cause. I support bus replacement & technology enhancements to the district. As a student here, my first computer in the classroom was a Macintosh Classic my teacher bought at a garage sale. We’re better than that! But, I don’t believe the district has studied 1:1 technology options well enough to say “Give me $15 million.” There are many costs associated with technology: course site hosts, email providers, data security, cloud storage, etc. that have not been vetted publicly. Will that all cost us more? Members of the board stated during the vote to approve this bond that it was being rushed through. As a voter, that and the lack of depth of facts made available give me little confidence in this bond. (2/2)
Lowell Alum April 13, 2013 at 08:05 PM
I sympathize with the Canton Township kids who have to take long bus rides to the Plymouth based middle schools. However, 5 middle schools is not the answer. Switching to a 7-8 format for the middle schools allows you to have at most 4 middle schools and possibly only 3 in the future. Novi, Brighton, Hartland, Pinckney, Livonia, Wayne-Westland, Garden City, and Van-Buren all use the 7-8 alignment. There is plenty of empty space in the existing elementary buildings for the 6th graders. Also since 10 out 15 elementary schools are in Canton Township (67%) the Canton based sixth-graders can all go to buildings in Canton. The goal of only 750 students per middle school is rather low. The existing middle schools range from 767 at East to 968 at Discovery and have had higher popluations in past years. Why are the high schools able to function with student populations of 2000 each? Also if 750 kids per middle school is the goal why in the world does the plan call for expanding the other existing middle schools? There were only 2,957 total kids in 7th and 8th grades combined. Three middle schools of 1000 each could handle this population. If the district does end up building another new building in Canton I hope they redo the grade configuration rather than sticking with the tired format of K-5 and 6-8.
Lowell Alum April 13, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Actually looking ahead to the next few years - student populations in the middle grades are going to decline significantly. The fall 2012 count showed 2,957 kids in 7th+8th, 2,702 in 5th+6th, 2,534 in 3rd+4th, and 2,281 in 1st+2nd. 3 buildings will soon be plenty to provide enough space for the 7th and 8th graders.
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:11 PM
You are correct, Lowell.
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Let’s talk about school bus cost: A new school bus costs between $80000-$95000 for a full size 66-seater bus. The body of the bus doesn’t appear to corrode like an automobile and these days corrosion doesn’t really appear to start showing on auto outer sheet-metal until 8 to 10 years. I've seen the buses and I see very limited-to-no rust. Why hasn’t anyone discussed refreshing the buses instead of purchasing new? Under environmental improvement, the government may provide financial help to reimburse costs to offset diesel emissions with a new powertrain as they did in 2012 under the “National Clean Diesel Rebate Program” for up to 5 new buses. Prior to any assistance it is estimated it would cost somewhere between $20000-$25000 (and that estimate is toward the high-side) to replace the engine, transmission, driveshaft and if needed shocks/springs...and you may not need to replace all of those items (driveshafts rarely require replacement). Therefore the savings runs from a low of $55000 to a high of $75000 for each bus to be refreshed versus purchased new (and no government assistance), plus new engines would meet more stringent emission standards. Why hasn’t this common-sense approach been taken? The answer is we don’t have a superintendent or majority of school board with common sense.
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Let’s talk new middle school: there should be NO debate on the cost of a new school versus the cost of refurbishment (reference Lowell Alum comments on near-future middle-school student population). The discussion should revolve around the obvious - the naturally occurring loss of students with population decline and options of parents to select private charter-schools. Is there going to be enough students to justify the building of a new middle school? The analysis is a middle school will need to be eliminated ANYWAYS in the near future due to attrition (3 company studies identified and verified this).
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Let’s talk technology: when did it become a requirement for the school to teach technology tools? The school purpose is to educate students on topics important to make them functional products of society. They need to know how to read, calculate, understand history to appreciate and learn from society shortfalls and accomplishments, how to be socially adept (music, sports, arts), learn about how government, businesses and economy works. Anything beyond that is not a necessity. So we need to make them aware of technology and how to use the tools? Ok, but it shouldn’t require use of a bond. It DOESN’T require each individual student and teacher to have their own personal tablet. It used to be satisfactory to provide computers/software in the central library to educate about ‘new’ tools and respective software; very cost-effective with low risk for damage or loss of units. The ‘tool’ remains in the library and is signed-out for limited periods of time. However, the term “cost-effective” does not appear to be in the repertoire of the superintendent or majority of the school board. Even if the state made student net access for tests a requirement or as an educational tool (it has not to date), why choose the MOST expensive option? Laptop prices are falling, laptops come equipped with far more memory and computing power than tablet/iPads, and laptops are standard in a work environment (not so for tablets/iPads). Another common-sense avenue not pursued.
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Let’s talk ‘the bond’ in general: similar approaches have been demonstrated time-and-again from the school board and superintendent roles throughout the years, in which maintenance expenses, and technology expenditures have not been well planned for and a common sense approach had not been taken. The board majority likes to expend citizenry tax dollars like it comes as cheap as water. Someone wish to contest that? Before you do, let this audience be reminded of the PCCS purchase of a brand-new maintenance truck versus a purchase of a high-quality used vehicle (a potential cost savings between $20000-$30000). The “cherry on the top” for the utmost audacity? Those of you not aware, not following the story or conveniently “forgetting” – the board did not get competing bids from dealerships; they went to one and took the FIRST offer; no counter negotiation of price. How smart is that? How often do YOU go to ONE seller for a major purchase and take the first offer? How often do you take the FIRST offer without trying to negotiate a better deal on a new vehicle? There may be exceptions, but you can venture not many people would. So why did the board and superintendent?
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Let's talk about representation: does the superintendent and board listen to the citizenry to their wants and needs? Take a guess of “no” and you’d be correct. Isn’t this the THIRD attempt to pass a bond? This bond is a cover-your-behind measure, being sold under the auspices of necessity and as an emergency. So why is the bond necessary? Because you have a superintendent leaving the district who wants to leave a personal ‘legacy’ of a) providing funds b) providing a new school building and c) having the most cutting-edge school district known in Michigan if not the country. Is it really about the students? Sorry to break the bubble, but no. It's about the superintendent and the school board majority wanting to avoid looking like a motley band of fools. Running in accounting 'red' but still planning to spend recklessly? Outrageous. We need responsibility and accountability in both roles; we have neither.
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:34 PM
In summary - let’s talk about tax dollar expenditures: the board and superintendent roles need to take a personal approach to spending tax dollars just like you and I have to budget our paychecks to meet our expenses. Re-stated - the board and superintendent need to treat every dollar expenditure like it comes directly from their own pocket. Wise expense research from no less than 3 vendors should be a mandatory requirement with supporting documentation to be provided for board approvals. It should be, but isn’t a requirement today. Why should the superintendent and board requirement be different than anything you and I would do for our household budgets? After all, isn’t the school comprised of students from the community? Isn’t the school board elected by you and I to represent the parent’s best interests for the students? Isn’t the superintendent role literally hired by the school board to execute their directives which are supposed to support us? Is spending wastefully truly representing this community? No, it doesn’t, for each dollar wastefully spent and misspent, is an educational dollar literally robbed from each student.
Michael Redman April 13, 2013 at 11:37 PM
For those of you who have 'bought' the propagandist pitch the superintendent and board have made that the taxes are not increasing: you're either a donkey or a tool. Not raising the existing rate but extending the length of the bond can take just as much money out of your tax-dollar pocket, if not more. Open your eyes, do the math.
Seth Furlow April 14, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Lowell, not sure why you consider the current grade configuration tired. There are advantages and disadvantages to the configuration but there is not another one that is necessarily better. I have taught middle school and high school and the smaller school size the district is look into with ~750 kids per school is right on. There is a massive difference between middle school kids and high school kids so comparing the MS size to the 2000+ kids at the Park is really irrelevant. With current numbers that you list, even with no additional student growth which many don't agree will happen, the current 1st-4th grades will still leave about 750 kids per FIVE middle schools.
Seth Furlow April 14, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Michael...I'm not sure what your role is in the community, what personal stake you have, but all you have said cannot be taken seriously based on the single assertion that schools are not responsible for teaching the use of technology. What era do you think we live in currently? Name me one business that is not dependent upon technology? The bond does not call for the purchase of tablets. A variety of options would be considered with laptops actually being the strongest candidate for secondary students, based on the reasons you have said. If you look at what the BOE has said they plainly tell you how many additonal dollars the bond will cost vs not renewing it. The fact of the matter is that you will not spend a dollar more than you are currently spending by voting YES. A no vote would save the average tax payer $35 dollars next year. Can you really argue that a savings of $35 is really worth the cost of not upgrading the district? You could not be more wrong about the purpose of the bond and Dr. Hughes intentions. Do you really believe that this bond would put P-CCS in a category of the most technologically advanced districts in the state? If so, you clearly have no experience in the current k-12 system in Michigan. P-CCS is dangerously close to becoming one of the most obsolete districts in the state. The MDE HAS already dictated that state testing will be required to be online and P-CCS does not have the infrastructure to handle that currently.
Seth Furlow April 14, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Dr. Hughes stepped in to take over temporarily, requested to stay on for one additional year to see through the implementation of a few different initiatives. The man has already determined his legacy, from Haslett, to Dearborn, to the MDE...he has no vested interest in leaving a "legacy" in P-CCS. The spending in the red and the bond are two totally separate issues. Citizens should really educate themselves on school funding before making such bold accusations. The passage of the bond will help lead the district out of deficit spending as it will provide some relief on the general fund. The teachers just made yet ANOTHER set of concessions, saving the district millions over the next few years, out of the general fund. The bond will allow for new technology and infrastructure to come from our community and not rely on these costs coming from the general fund, providing yet more relief to the budget.
Seth Furlow April 14, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Who's to say the building of this new school and all of the technology improvements, along with creating smaller student environments won't draw some of these charter and private school students back to P-CCS?
Robert May 03, 2013 at 11:08 PM
You people are just plane stupid. This is a tax increase, simple as that. Your just drinking the koolaid. Stop wasting my tax money on bloated organizations which only exist to build e,piers to themselves. This is not about our kids, it's about government waste and the corrupt michigan educational system
Robert May 03, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Why a new bond now? Simple, the old one is ending and the greedy school systems don't want to give up up the cash. When are you people going to wake up and realize that these governmental systems will never stop taking. They will make up excuse after excuse, usually like this one " it's about the children crap". I laugh at the comments about what a terrible facility Central is. So does this mean that every skid that goes through it end up failing in school, doubtful! It sounds more like a bunch of lazy teachers whining about not having a state-of-the-art facility to teach in. Too bad. Our government wastes money, why give them more when they prove time after that they are irresponsible. And how stupid are you people to buyin to the statement that there is no tax increase? Of course there is. The old mileage is ending, so taxes will go down. This will keep taxes at the same rate so the loss of the tex reduction is a TAX INCRESE!
Ann May 08, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Perhaps you, yourself could finance this milage and a new facility. As for my husband an I, we have taken a pay cut, our monthly bills have increased A lot and one day we want to retire as we are in or 50's. My kids went to Central Middle School and they survived. In fact I survived Detroit schools. Please realize that the middle class is having a difficult time. Get over all of the "wants".

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