Oxford shows the way to school reform

First in a series examing how decreasing school funding from the state affects Clarkston schools…

Foreign language fluency in elementary school, no pay-to play and free sports admission for students ? new ideas to reform schools, but not in Clarkston.
They’re happening in Oxford schools, only 15 minutes away
The state announced $165-per-student cuts earlier this month and broke the news last week projecting another $127 cut, unless the state legislature passes a new revenue bill by Nov. 1. The full $292-per-student cut would mean Clarkston would receive $7,260 per student. Oxford is projected to receive $7,265, only $5 more than Clarkston.
During the Annual Michigan Association of School Boards conference, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan talked about Oxford as a model school, with new ideas while cutting costs.
Oxford Community Schools Dr. William Skilling shared his plan with MASB members and showed how it’s done.
‘It started by casting and branding an image for the school district,? he said.
Through stragetic planning, the district decided it wanted to become a model global school.
They created the Fifth Core program to prepare kids to be fluent in two languages, English and one other language, either Spanish or Chinese.
Clarkston Community School Trustee Joan Patterson spoke to a Oxford parent and was impressed when the parent described what her son did in school, learning a second language and musical instrument on top of their required subjects.
Oxford took their vision a step further and got rid of pay-to-play for athletics, and students admission to get into sporting events or fine art performances.
‘We are letting the vision drive revenue, instead of revenue drive what the vision should be,? Skilling said.
Clarkston athletes pay $225/year in grades 9-12 and $150/year in grades 7-8 to participate in sports. Skilling said athletics and fine arts admission was cut because students learn there.
‘Arts are important because the same parts of the brain used to learn language acquisition is used to learn music,? he said. ‘Music plays role in creativity, innovation, and creating productivity in learning.?
But how could they afford to do it and remain in the black?
‘It’s like the old supply and demand theory of economics ? when you lower prices, demand goes up,? he said.
Result for Oxford ? more families attend events because they can afford to take the whole family, and students come to watch their classmates. Admission revenue increased five percent last year, and more people attended last year’s musical than any other in school history.
The idea wasn’t new to Patterson.
‘Last year when we were talking about what we can do with fund equity, I did ask ? because of our economic times ? was it time to take some of the fund equity and cut down costs to join clubs and pay-to-play to help out the community,? she said. ‘I also brought up foreign language in the community.?
Skilling said they cut programs not within their vision but gained students while making the changes.
‘Many districts have Proposal A mentality,? said Skilling. ‘They wait to see how much money they are going to get from the state, start complaining about it and start making cuts, and cut student programs.?
Patterson and the rest of the board members left the conference with ideas on ways to costs after seeing what other districts were doing.
Next week, what Clarkston administrators and other trustees think.