Category Archives: Voter Forums

Ferndale area Candidates Respond to CFF Questionnaire: Fall 2021

Get to know our community’s candidates! On Tuesday, November 2nd, Ferndale voters will vote for Mayor and members of the City Council. CFF seeks to help Ferndale voters get acquainted with those running for public office. To this end, CFF asked candidates to complete a CFF Candidate Questionnaire, allowing them to share contact information and responses to several questions. Click on names to view each candidate’s completed questionnaire.

Candidates for Mayor ( Vote One for a 2-Year term)

Stella Dyacnenko (write-in)

Melanie Piana

Candidates for City Council (Vote Two for a 4-Year term)

Laura Mikulski

Greg Pawlika



Citizens for a Fair Ferndale, 263 Vester St., Ferndale, MI 48220

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 9/5/19; Contact (248) 439-0747 landline/v.m; (248)707-0097 mobile/text

Citizens For a Fair Ferndale to Host Candidate Meet-and-Greet
On Monday, September 16, 2019, the League of Women Voters Oakland Area will host a Candidate Forum for the Ferndale City Council and Mayoral races at the Ferndale City Hall, 300 E. Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI 48220, beginning at 6:30 PM. The public and media are invited. (Learn more about the LWV forum at

Immediately following this event, Citizens for a Fair Ferndale (CFF) will host an informal afterglow meet-and-greet. CFF has invited all declared candidates running for the Ferndale City Council and Mayor’s seat. The public and the media are encouraged to attend this free event.

Candidates have been invited to submit answers to a CFF Candidate Questionnaire. Candidate responses will be made available at the event and will be posted in coming weeks on CFF’s website.

CFF’s mission is to foster a community that is dedicated to the fair and equal treatment of all residents and visitors regardless of sexual orientation, race, color, religion, gender, gender expression or identity, age, height, weight, familial status, national origin, physical or mental ability.

Learn more about CFF at

Contact us for more information: or (248) 439-0747

Citizen’s for a Fair Ferndale Hold Candidate Forum


On Saturday, November 3, 2018, Citizens for a Fair Ferndale (CFF) held a Candidate Forum at the Ferndale Area District Library (222 E. 9 Mile Rd.) from 2:00-4:00 p.mCFF has invited all declared candidates for the Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education, the Ferndale Library Board, and Judge of the 43rd District Court. The public and the media are encouraged to attend.

Below are candidate questionnaires that were circulated and returned to CFF by 5 of the candidates on the upcoming November 6th ballot.

Click this link  for a facebook live recording of the forum. It is only 35 minutes long!

Anna Ibrahim – School Board

Jim O’Donnell School Board

Daniel Hooper – Library Board

Beau Perry – Library Board

Kevin Yezbick – Library Board

Keith Hunt – Judge

Jim Osak – Judge


School Board and Library Board Candidate Forum

On Sunday, October 30, 2016, Citizens for a Fair Ferndale (CFF) will hold a School Board and Library Board Candidate Forum at Ferndale City Hall at 1:00 pm. The event will also be recorded and submitted to WFRN for airing until Election Day. The public and the media are encouraged to attend.
CFF has invited all declared candidates: Mike Davisson and Jackie Hart for Ferndale School Board, and Judeen Bartos, Richard Consul, Kelly Farrah, Adrienne Fazzolara Gilmore, Amanda Hanlin, and Kevin Yezbick for Ferndale Area District Library Board.
The format is simple:
1. All declared Candidates for School Board and Library Board are invited to participate.
2. Candidates are at a table in the front of the room.
3. Each Candidate will have an opportunity to give a 2 minute introduction.
4. As people come in, they are given 3 x 5 cards. These are gathered periodically and brought to the moderator. The moderator then poses the questions to the candidates. Each Candidate has 2 minutes to answer each question. The order of response changes so each has a chance to be first.
5. There is a timer to help you pace answers.
6. Each Candidate will have an opportunity to give a closing statement.
Click here for CFF’s complete Forum Guidelines (Note the introduction and closing statement times will be shortened for this particular forum, due to the large number of Library Board candidates).

Download and read questionnaires completed by the candidates.

UPDATE (10/31): Two write-in candidates have also filed paperwork to be considered for this election. Keith Warnick is running for School Board and Mary C. Riegle is running for Library Board.

UPDATE (11/4): Click here to watch the candidate forum on YouTube.

Contact us for more information: or (248) 515-7803

2015 Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

Click the link below to open a pdf version of the questionnaire, or scroll down to read it here.

Dave Coulter 2015 Questionnaire

Dave Coulter, Ferndale Mayor since January, 2011.

What do you consider to be the accomplishments during your tenure as Mayor?
Ferndale is a special community, and it’s an honor to serve as Mayor. Working together with City Council, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, including:

  • Lowering taxes more than 2 mils (about $166 for the average homeowner) this year, and lowering water rates 10% in 2014;
  • Renovating our dilapidated courthouse and police station – without using tax dollars;
  • Creating a new health clinic for city employees in collaboration with Royal Oak and Madison Heights, as we continue to look for ways to reduce costs while still offering outstanding city services;
  • Upgrading Livernois and West Nine Mile to transform them into more vibrant, successful streets, and completeing upgrades to Hilton and East Nine Mile. We’re already seeing significant private investment following our work in these areas;
  • My Mayor’s Business Council, which continues to help attract new investments, jobs and tax revenue to our formerly neglected industrial sector;
  • The work of my Blue Ribbon Committee on Parks, resulting in improvements such as the new Wilson Park Dog Park, a new play scape at Garbutt Park and new walking trails, among others.

What challenges or disappointments did you face as Mayor?

With revenues flat, financial issues have been a challenge every year since I’ve been mayor.   Just like our residents have to balance their household budgets, we’ve worked hard to offer great city services that get more expensive every year with the same amount of funds. Beyond financial issues, however, I’ve learned that being mayor means being prepared for the unexpected.  From heat waves and power outages to flooding and lawsuits and more, you’re really tested most by the things that weren’t planned.

I’ve faced each of these challenges the same way; engage the other council members and the unique talents they bring to create a strong team, encourage city staff to think creatively about how to use their experience to tackle problems, and be honest and transparent with residents about the nature of the challenge and our options as a community.

I’ve never pretended to have all the answers, but I know that within this city are people – council, staff and residents – that possess the knowledge that will lead to the best possible solutions for Ferndale. As a result, I’m grateful for all the support and friendship I have received since becoming mayor. I know our best days are yet to come, and by working together we will keep moving Ferndale forward.

What do you see as the priorities for the Mayor in the next two years?

Ferndale is once again helping lead the region with rising home values, higher occupancy rates in our downtown and industrial sector, lower crime and an overall improved quality of life. But there’s more I’m eager to do, including continuing the transformation of our parks, expanding retail, foot traffic and parking in our downtown, and ensuring that this progress preserves affordable housing and independent retailers and entrepreneurs in our city.

Thanks to the voter-approved infrastructure bond passed in May, I’m excited to bring even more attention to our parks and develop amenities residents will use and enjoy.  Together with the work of repairing our local streets, these bond projects will soon be a reality and will help transform our parks and our neighborhoods into even more vibrant places of recreation and community.

I’m also looking forward to partnering with the new leadership at the DDA to address issues like increased retail activity, housing and office development, transportation and parking (including planning already underway for a possible replacement of the 3-60 project) to ensure our downtown remains a popular regional destination in the face of increased regional competition.

2015 City Council Candidate Questionnaires

Click the links below to open a pdf version of each candidate questionnaire, or scroll down to read them here.

(CFF has not made any revisions to the questionnaire responses; formatting here follows the formatting of the questionnaires as closely as possible to how they were submitted)


Name William S. White

Address 1568 W. Hazlehurst, Ferndale, Michigan, 48220 –

How long have you lived in Ferndale? 27 years

Describe your community involvement.  I am a member of the Ferndale elks, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 130 – Endorsement of the executive board. Through my membership in local organizations we help the person in need, handicap, veterans, youth, and anyone who needs our help. 

How the demographics of Ferndale changed in the last 20 years have and what implications does this have for the City Council in the next 5 years?  Ferndale has become a very diverse city and the council will need to keep up with all factors, such as; age, race, sex, economic status, level of education, income level, and employment.

What role do Boards and Commissions play in Ferndale’s Government?  How should members be recruited/screened? I think the is very good for people to get involved in the city programs. The boards and commissions help the council to better know more things that are happing in the city and are well needed.

Why did you decide to run for City Council?  What has prepared you to hold a City Council seat? I’ve decided to run for city council because I am retired and I have time to invest to the city of Ferndale. I have owned a business for over 30 years and lived in Ferndale for 27 years.

What is the most productive relationship between Council and the City Manager? To see that we are both working for the best things for the residents.

When there is disagreement on any issue among members of the City Council what is the responsibility of each individual Council member? To look at what is the best for the resident’s interest.

Explain the type of development that you see as most beneficial to the Downtown area.
Restaurants, you can come to Ferndale and get almost any cuisine.

What specific ideas do you have for reducing expenditures while maintaining city services?
The Police, Fire and DPW are very important to me and the city.  I fell there should not be any reductions in services they should be in other areas first.

Please give your opinion of the MiLife Health & Wellness Center. Great Idea!!!


Name: Raylon Leaks-May

Address: 1655 W. Saratoga, Ferndale, MI 48220

Phone and/or email where citizens can reach you:

How long have you lived in Ferndale?
25 years

Describe your community involvement.
I am completing my third year of a four-year term on the Ferndale School Board. I have also been involved with Citizens for a Fair Ferndale, especially the Ferndale Good Neighbors Civility Pledge, as well as the Ferndale Education Foundation, Grant PTO Treasurer and Headstart Family and Policy Committees.

How have the demographics of Ferndale changed in the last 20 years and what implication does this have for the City Council in the next 5 years?
Between 2000 and 2010, Ferndale’s population decreased, and the number of family households with children has shrunk, while adult households appear to be on the rise. That may mean a shift in the needs or desires of residents, to which the City must pay attention. To the extent that children and young people are critical to maintaining a healthy, balanced population, the City may consider developing plans to attract and retain new families with children to our community.

What role do Boards and Commissions play in Ferndale’s Government?  How should members be recruited/screened?
Boards and Commissions provide an opportunity for direct community participation in the functioning of our city government. Through these bodies, residents can advise Council regarding important policy decisions, more efficiently and transparently than if Council and City staff alone did all the work. On City Council, I will seek to broaden the way in which openings are announced to the public, including discussion at Council meetings, the City’s quarterly newsletter, and online resources. Screening should include balancing professional qualifications with knowledge and within community. 

Why did you decide to run for City Council?  What has prepared you to hold a City Council seat?
I realized that I could bring a different experience and perspective to Council that is not currently represented. I am a mother and an African-American woman. And while I admire and respect our current council, I bring a voice that is not currently at the Council table. In addition, I am qualified by my leadership and governance experience, especially my recent role in the Ferndale School Strategic Planning.

What is the most productive relationship between Council and the City Manager?
Council and the City Manager must have a strong, collaborative relationship. Communication and mutual respect are essential.

When there is disagreement on any issue among members of the City Council what is the responsibility of each individual Council member?
Each Council member must be open to listening to one another and discuss difficult issues in a constructive fashion. Listening to another perspective may make a Council member think of an issue in a way they have never thought of it before. Opposing opinions are worthy of respect, and Council members should agree to disagree when consensus cannot be reached.

Explain the type of development that you see as most beneficial to the Downtown area.
Mixed use development that for provides for a variety of retail, residential space, family style dining, and parking. I am especially interested in attracting retail that residents currently must leave the City to shop for. When our businesses thrive, our community thrives.

What specific ideas do you have for reducing expenditures while maintaining city services?
One simple measure would be, as City equipment is replaced over time in the normal course of business (for example, City vehicles and electronics and appliances in City buildings), they would be replaced with affordable energy efficient equipment. Energy reduction would result in lower operating costs.

Please give your opinion of the MiLife Health & Wellness Center.
I appreciate that the Center exists to provide preventative care at a lower cost to the City – no cost to the employees. I am interested to learn more about whether this impacts City employees’ medical coverage for more serious illnesses not addressed by the Center.


Name Dan Martin

Address 1447 W. Hazelhurst St.  Ferndale MI 48220

Phone and/or email where citizens can reach you 248-672-4067;

How long have you lived in Ferndale? 11 Years

Describe your community involvement: I have been engaged in the community in a number of ways, including:

  • Mayor Pro-Tem; City of Ferndale; Present
  • Ferndale City Council; 2011- Present
  • President, Ferndale Community Foundation
  • Board Member, Ferndale Youth Assistance
  • Democratic Precinct Delegate, Ferndale MI
  • Member, Ferndale Elks
  • Alt. Board Member, DDA Board of Directors
  • Past President, Ferndale Housing Commission
  • Past President, Ferndale Area Democratic Club
  • Past Vice-President Ferndale Arts and Culture Commission
  • Past President, Michigan AIDS Coalition Board of Directors
  • Other Volunteer Activities: Ferndale DDA, Ferndale Good Neighbors Awards, FernCare Free Clinic, Clean the Ferndale Up, Ferndale Pride, Pub Crawl, Blues Festival and Goodfellows.

How have the demographics of Ferndale changed in the last 20 years and what implications does this have for the City Council in the next 5 years?

The demographic trends over the past 20 years has seen a reduction in the number of children living in Ferndale, contributing to lower enrollment in our school system.   Our population has continued to diversify, both in terms of age, race, familial status all of when requires different housing needs.  In the next 5 years, Ferndale should focus on a housing strategy that reflects this.  It is important to increase the diversity in our housing stock, having more housing options will be important to attract people.  We also should look at our policies to support people who want to  “age in place”, which requires modifications to homes they are already living in.  This applies to both our planning and how we do business with residents and developers.

What role do Boards and Commissions play in Ferndale’s Government?  How should members be recruited/screened?  In my view the role of Boards and Commissions is to add a diverse voice to the work of the community.  People from varying backgrounds and talents can use these groups to connect with work they are passionate about and are also excellent opportunities for residents to get familiar with City Government and possibly deepening their involvement through one of the elected bodies.

Why did you decide to run for City Council?  What has prepared you to hold a City Council seat?

The last four years serving on City Council has really been an amazing experience and I have enjoyed it.  It certainly hasn’t always been easy or flawless but I am proud of what we have accomplished, that I have been able to help develop and work with a team who I respect and appreciate, even when we are at odds on an issue. I do not feel my work is done on Council and that is why I am running for re-election.  I am prepared to hold this seat because I have done so for the past term.

Previous to serving on Council my experience in the private industry and education, as well as a deep involvement in community work was a very valuable place to grow into being an effective Councilperson.

What is the most productive relationship between Council and the City Manager?

City Council is the policy making body for the City.  In our local form of government the City Manager is responsible for the execution of those policies.  The advantage of our current form of government the City Manager is professionally educated and experienced, so that she can bring options and proposals for the City Council to respond to.  The City Manager is also responsible for the hiring and development of city employees, so having a City Manager who has that professional background is essential.  The Council should give the City Manager consistent feedback on her and staff’s performance, and hold the City Manager accountable for delivery of those priorities.

When there is disagreement on any issue among members of the City Council what is the responsibility of each individual Council member?

There are a number of responsibilities.  First and foremost is to act in accordance with your values and representing your constituents.  Second is to be honest about your convictions and why you have arrived at the decision you have.  Third, is to work in an open manner to see the views of your fellow Councilpeople and respectfully dialogue an appropriate course of action.  Perhaps there isn’t one and the issue dies, but never is it appropriate to shut down, be belligerent or disrespectful.   Our local government works as well as it does because relationships are based on mutual respect and openness to other points of view.  There are disagreements but we have always been able to work together and be honest with each other.

Explain the type of development that you see as most beneficial to the Downtown area.

Mixed use, increasing our residential and retail development.  The strength of a city is in the diversity of its housing and the downtown area could benefit from more options.  I also believe future development should be within the character of the city and respectful of our historical value.  Many people sometimes refer to us as the next “Royal Oak”.  There is nothing wrong with Royal Oak being Royal Oak, but that is not us. I am looking forward to some really creative solutions that includes deeply embedded resident engagement.

What specific ideas do you have for reducing expenditures while maintaining city services?

Investing in technology that makes transactions cheaper and easier for the residents has been a key focus of mine and will ultimately reduce expenditures. I also believe cultivating the talent have in house will allow us to do more without hiring consultants or outsourcing services, creating more innovative solutions will reduce overall expenditures while improving services.  The recent dog park construction is a great example of this.  The recent bond proposal that passed improving infrastructure will keep ongoing maintenance costs in check.

I also am a great advocate of multi-year budgeting practices that allow the City to plan for investment that creates a long term trend of expenditure reduction.

Lastly, it is the role of City Council to use its judgement on expenditures, do their homework and exercise responsible stewardship for the resources we’ve been entrusted.

Please give your opinion of the MiLife Health & Wellness Center.

I have two arguments that shape my opinion of the MILife Health and Wellness Center.  First and foremost I want to point out that as this issue came to Council I asked a lot of questions, but ultimately abstained from voting so as to not give the appearance of a conflict of interest with my “day job”, at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

First, the argument for the Center; it will save the City money in the short term.  Unquestionably for both our employees and our health care expenditures.  As a self-funded customer of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Ferndale pays the actual cost of the service delivered by participating providers, plus service fees for processing the claim.  Employing a physician directly or contractually will be cheaper on a per service basis.  Also, I like this concept because it took multiple municipalities working together to make it happen, and that’s great collaboration.  Lastly, the at work health initiatives are great and support lifestyle change if used in conjunction with a comprehensive care plan.

My concerns around it is that there should a removal of the mindset that chronic conditions can be treated in a vacuum. A medical home is a team of health care providers addressing diseases in a multi-faceted way.  A diabetic, for example, gets better care from multiple disciplined sources including doctors specializing in treating the physical aspects of the disease, behavioral health services, nutritional coaching, etc.  The quality of care and outcomes is just better.

This proposal was presented before Council as a medical home.  It is not.  I have no objection to getting quick service at a low price for treatments such as a sinus infection or a sprained ankle, but I worry that the reduction in patent out of pocket costs will motivate employees away from a coordinated team approach for chronic conditions or prohibiting them from establishing a relationship with a primary care / family physician that truly belongs to a system that offers a spectrum of coordination.  It will also be cheaper from an expense perspective in the long term if degenerative conditions have a continual multi-disciplinary approach.

I want to re-iterate that I will continue to abstain from any vote that appears to be a conflict of interest.  I also want to be respectful of the question asked here and be as transparent as possible.  So to summarize a really long explanation of my personal opinion, if used properly and in context the Center is a great idea.  It does not replace the quality of care received for chronic conditions that require long term, coordinated care.

2014 School Board Candidate Questionnaires

CFF is experiencing some technical difficulty in posting each questionnaire as a pdf. In the meantime, the content of each has been pasted below for your convenience.

Name  Nan Kerr-Mueller

Address   434 East Lewsiton, Ferndale 48220

Phone and/or E-mail address where citizens can reach you

How long have you lived in the Ferndale School district?

8 years

If you are a parent, did your children attend Ferndale schools?  Why or why not?

All three of my children attend the Ferndale School district.  My youngest attends Grant and I have one son at Coolidge and another at Ferndale Middle School.  When we moved here from Chicago and did a lot of research to find a diverse and progressive community where our children could thrive.  I am extremely proud of the education all three of my sons are receiving.

Why are you running for this position?

I love this community and I love being deeply involved in my sons’ and all of our children’s education.  In the last few years we have accomplished so much, from developing a community based strategic plan to hiring a new superintendent.  I am honored to be a part of this current board.  This is a hardworking, compassionate, intelligent and mindful board and it is my hope to keep it together and keep moving forward.

What specific experiences have you had that would prepare you for this position?

I have been serving on the board since 2010, I am the current Vice-President of the board, and I have also served as the secretary.  My career since graduating University of Michigan in 1996, has consisted almost exclusively in working within both elementary and secondary schools.  I believe that these experiences help keep me focused on continuously asking how our decisions affect student achievement.  I also volunteer extensively within out district and try to build relationships throughout our communities to keep the lines of communication open.  Knowing I have the trust of the community is humbling and I work hard to keep it.

Terms of office are currently six years.  Will that present any challenges for you?

This will not present any challenges for me.  My youngest will not graduate until 2028.  I am in this for the long haul.

Explain what Board Governance means to you.

The purview of the board is clear.  We set policy and vision and oversee the budget and ensure that our Superintendent follows the policy and vision with the best interest of our students, families, and community at heart.  We are elected to determine the most appropriate and effective way to hold our Superintendent accountable and to work closely with him in ensuring the best course for our schools.  The Superintendent is in charge of implementation.  We do routine evaluations of both the superintendent and of ourselves.

We have a superintendent who is new to FPS and is in his first superintendency.  What implications does this have for the Board of Education?

The entire district is benefiting from Superintendent Prewitt’s energy and high work ethics.  Though initially any decision of this magnitude is very nerve wracking, this was without a doubt the most important thing a board has to do and I am very proud of the way in which we conducted the search and the hiring of Blake Prewitt and know that our district is in good hands.

Ferndale, like many other districts in Oakland County, has an achievement gap based on race.  What do you propose be done to close that gap?

We have a good start in the work we have done with our community on the strategic plan.  We need to keep on having hard conversations, and I know we are the right place to be able to take on this very real problem.  A coherent behavior plan is being implemented that will do a lot to make a student’s tenure from pre-k through graduation more consistent.  A focus on school culture creates a safe environment where students can really focus on learning. Our early release Mondays have given our teachers more time to be able to both share data and also successful strategies. The professional learning communities focus on vertical alignment to make sure our core areas are solid.  Our teachers are providing an education that is showing that our achievement gap is closing and we are listening to them and reviewing the data to make sure we keep moving forward in creating equity.   We have the right people in the classrooms and in the Administration Building to really make a difference.

Does standardized testing help or hinder education of our students?

Standardized testing is one way to determine student achievement at a given point in a timeline of their educational career.  Testing also helps us to compare how our students are doing to other district that are similar and dissimilar, as well as compare our subgroups to other district subgroup populations.  However, the way that they are currently being used by the state and by our Federal Government is a travesty.  Using our test scores to determine funding, labeling schools persistently low achieving, priority or focused schools, or dissolving local control based on factors not reported or taken into account through the determinations of scorecards and top to bottom lists continues to admonish and hurt stakeholders in districts that happen to work hard to educate the poor in our state.  In addition, when we look at the districts that have lost their local control and have been disenfranchised they are districts not only with high poverty, but racially African American.  I support assessment for data and information that we can use to inform our teaching, programs and professional development, but cannot support testing in this otherwise hurtful manner.

A comprehensive strategic plan was adopted by the board.  What three things would you identify as your top priorities from this plan?

I believe in the pillars of our strategic plan.  Those are quality, achievement, and equity.  I feel particularly strong about the community and collaboration part of the plan.  I know that if we do this well achievement and equity will follow.  In order to overcome achievement gaps we need to have a good relationship with all the members of our school and community family.  Building trust will take time and I know that we are on the right track.

What is the role of a school board member with regards to advocacy and legislation?

I am extremely proud of all of the work we have done in terms of advocacy and legislation, especially all of the strides Karen Twomey has made in networking.  We have a responsibility in the current state of dwindling funds to make sure our voices are heard and we maintain and hopefully return funds to our district.

Please list three (3) assets of our school district. (Other than our wonderful students!)

The diversity in our district, the commitment of our community to our school success, and our incredible staff.


Name:  Jennifer M. LaTosch

Address:  715 W. Breckenridge, Ferndale

Phone and/or E-mail address where citizens can reach you

Cell:  248-807-1415


How long have you lived in the Ferndale School district?

20 years

If you are a parent, did your children attend Ferndale schools? Why or why not?

Yes, both of my sons attend Ferndale Schools and are in third grade at Kennedy.  When my wife and I moved to Ferndale we wanted to live in a community that was open, diverse, and supportive of all families.  We wanted to live in a community where our children would be proud to say, “I have two moms.”  Ferndale is that community.  It was also just as important to us for our kids to have access to the best education possible.  When we began researching Ferndale Schools, we recognized that, like several nearby districts, our schools had tremendous offerings, but also needed work.  Over the four years our children have been Ferndale Public Schools students, they have had the opportunity to work some of the most tremendous teachers.   I am confident that my kids will not only receive a stellar education in Ferndale Public Schools, but that our schools will prepare them for success in our local and global communities.  I think having children enrolled in the Ferndale Public Schools is an incredible asset as a School Board member. Not only do I have a daily perspective through my children’s eyes but also my own as a parent. Having such regular contact with students, teachers, administrators, parents, keeps me in touch with the culture of the schools and also holds me accountable.

Why are you running for this position?

Simply stated, I am running for this position because I love our community and I can’t imagine living or raising my children anywhere else, and I am passionate about ensuring that my kids, that all of our kids, have access to the best education possible. I truly believe Ferndale Public Schools are poised to become one of the leading districts in Michigan:  we have a new dynamic strategic plan, a new motivated superintendent, the most dedicated and diverse community around, and a school board committed to moving our district forward. We can make Ferndale Public Schools as progressive and thriving as our cities, and I look forward to continuing my work on the School Board. Along with my fellow candidates Nan and Karen, and along with our current board members, we can keep our forward momentum.

What specific experiences have you had that would prepare you for this position?

Personally, with a mom who served on a local school board for twelve years while I was growing up, I learned the importance of community service.  This dedication to community service led me to volunteer in our schools and also participate as a member of the Strategic Planning Committee last year.  Professionally as an attorney focusing primarily on family law and probate litigation, I have experience working in highly charged and emotional situations, training in research and writing, extensive knowledge in legislative matters, and the ability to understand diverging view points while effectively advocating for our schools and our children.  Over the past year of my board service, my professional experience has prepared me to draft a contract for our new superintendent which concentrated on maintaining local focus and minimizing conflicts of interest; review and analyze various legislative actions and contractual obligations; maintain focus on our long range goals and objectives as detailed in our newly developed strategic plan, etc.  My legal background and my social work experience have provided me with the skills necessary to investigate and study new ideas/solutions/problems, work collaboratively towards creative and responsible outcomes, and all the while maintain the primary focus on the individual.

Terms of office are currently six years. Will that present any challenges for you?

No, I do not anticipate that there will be any extraordinary challenges in completing a six year term.

Explain what Board Governance means to you.

The Board is charged with two essential responsibilities.  The first is to hire and then evaluate the superintendent.  The second is to ascertain the goals and priorities of the district and establish the necessary policies to operate the district and reach those objectives.  An effective board has members that are dedicated to working together on establishing a shared vision and a means of monitoring results, committed to transparency and accountability not only at the board level but throughout the district, focused on creating and maintaining effective policies and budget oversight, and committed to developing and maintaining a collaborative relationship with the superintendent and the community as a whole.  The current board is such a board and the effective change we have made in moving our district forward can already be seen.

We have a superintendent who is new to FPS and is in his first superintendency. What implications does this have for the Board of Education?

This is an exceptionally exciting time for our district, welcoming in a new and dedicated superintendent who is as passionate as our residents and current school board about educating all of our students and elevating our district.  However, as with any new relationship, it is imperative for the board and the superintendent to establish clear expectations and goals.  This can only happen with open and honest lines of communication, the building of mutual respect, the creation of shared expectations, and effective evaluation benchmarks and tools.  In order for the district to be successful, the board and the superintendent must at all times work in harmony towards a shared common goal, free from outside conflicts of interest and lack of transparency.  This is an on-going process and the current board and superintendent have been diligent in establishing this effective working relationship from the beginning, and we all recognize that this in an on-going effort that will take regular and diligent oversight and discussion.

Ferndale, like many other districts in Oakland County, has an achievement gap based on race. What do you propose be done to close that gap?

This was a primary discussion during the strategic planning process, and much of that plan focusses not only on decreasing the achievement gap, but ensuring that all kids achieve at their level.  I believe the current gap will be reduced through a combination of focusing on equity in our schools, providing each student with the support necessary to achieve (many new programs are being researched and initiated at the present time for students at all levels), the creation and follow-through with a district-wide comprehensive behavior model (which has begun), and more effective (and less burdensome) testing to allow for year-to-year measures of targeted achievement growth.  This will require a multi-faceted approach at all levels, from administration, instruction, and support services.

Does standardized testing help or hinder education of our students?

Depending on how it is administered, standardized testing can either help or hurt the education of our students.  Our new method, instituted this year, is focused on measuring academic achievement on an on-going basis from year-to-year for each student, from kindergarten through graduation.  This will allow the teacher and parents to see not only each child’s growth during the academic year, but throughout the student’s career in the Ferndale Public Schools.  Further, the instructional models used during the day, both in school and at home, will be in-line with the new testing models, to allow for assessments throughout the school year and the ability to streamline instruction and focus on the child’s specific needs.  The focus will then not be on test scores alone, but on the key questions of: how do the tests help student achievement. Utilized in this manner, testing be used to support the instruction and will ultimately help the education of our students.

A comprehensive strategic plan was adopted by the board. What three things would you identify as your top priorities from this plan?

This strategic plan was developed over a one year span and involved the entire community. We will be successful in fulfilling the goals and objectives contained in our Strategic Plan by holding close to three primary priorities. Priority one is achievement. We must work together to ensure that each child in our district, from those with special needs through those with advanced skills, all have the opportunity to achieve academically, in their extracurricular goals, and their journeys to becoming thriving global citizens. Priority two is advocacy: we must advocate not only for the equity and achievement of our students, but also for our teachers, administrators, and public schools as a whole. Public education in Michigan has been subjected to repeated attacks by state and federal regulation and under-funding.  I will continue to work towards legislative change while supporting and seeking out creative solutions for securing grants and partnerships with non-governmental agencies to ensure our schools and students receive adequate resources. The final priority is equity. Our community is perhaps the most diverse in Michigan; we have an exceptional mix of individuals with widely varying backgrounds and experiences: race, socio-economics, lgbtq, and so much more. As a leader in the lesbian and gay community, I take pride in our diversity and take personal responsibility for fostering an inclusive and respectful culture for all.  With diversity comes the imperative to meet each person where they are, knowing that not every student needs the same thing.  Our challenge is to build understanding and awareness about the needs that exist within difference and provide students with what they need to succeed in the world.  As a board member, I will continue to hold myself and all school leadership accountable for effectively and honestly working within our community’s diversity, which I truly believe is one of the most dynamic and essential building blocks for the Ferndale Public Schools. Expanding and supporting a culture of dignity and equity will not only serve to foster extraordinary student achievement, which drives every endeavor of the Ferndale Public Schools, it will also provide the requisite ground work to focus on other essential matters such as adequate funding, goal and vision setting, local and state advocacy, etc. I have worked hard over the past year with the board to create this positive, forward movement and truly wish to see this momentum continue.

What is the role of a school board member with regards to advocacy and legislation?

As I mentioned above, a school board member must focus on effective advocacy for each student and for our schools as a whole.  Advocacy can be in searching out alternative means for securing grants and other partnerships to ensure our schools have adequate resources.  At the same time, we must collaborate with other districts and entities to effectively work towards legislative change that supports public education via adequate funding for our students, the creation of proper evaluation tools for our teachers and administrators, and diminishes standardizations for our students and the dismantling of our educators’ autonomy.  I actively monitor legislation, communicate with educational leaders and state policy makers, volunteer for political candidates that support public education, travel to Lansing to advocate for our district and our kids, and speak out in support of Michigan’s public education.

Please list three (3) assets of our school district. (Other than our wonderful students!)

Our diversity, our passion, and our sense of community.  As I mentioned above, I truly believe that our diversity is one of the most dynamic and essential building blocks for the Ferndale Public Schools.  Our children receive an excellent education, but more importantly they learn to work side-by-side with people with from such varying and diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Once our children graduate from our schools and embark on their advanced education and/or careers, they are exceedingly well prepared to not only survive in our global community, but thrive.  Perhaps because of our diversity, the members of our school district are passionate about our community and have an incredible sense of pride of our community, as does every member of our current school board.  This is why I live here, this is why my children attend school here, and this is why I am asking for the opportunity to continue the work we have started over the past year and serve on the Ferndale School Board for the next six years.


Name  Karen Twomey

Address   12 Poplar Park, Pleasant Ridge

Phone and/or E-mail address where citizens can reach you, 248/417-2721

How long have you lived in the Ferndale School district?

18 years

If you are a parent, did your children attend Ferndale schools?  Why or why not?

All three of my kids attend the Ferndale schools, my oldest two started in Grant and are now in the middle school and high school, and my youngest is a second grader at Kennedy. Last year I also had the unique pleasure of graduating an exchange student who I hosted for the year from Ferndale High.

Why are you running for this position?

This election I’m running for the same reason I ran six years ago, I have made a commitment to the schools and the community: I have three kids in the district and I can see the positive results of proactive, policy-driven leadership. This amazing community has democratically assembled an effective team of board members with deep and diverse talents, and I want to keep this successful team together. We now have in place a dynamic strategic vision and an amazingly talented superintendent. I want to continue using my experience on the board to keep building the positive momentum of the Ferndale Public Schools.

What specific experiences have you had that would prepare you for this position?

I have been serving on the board since 2009, and am the current Secretary. Professionally, I am an educator of world language in Bloomfield Hills where I teach 6-12th graders, and my education includes a Masters of School Administration and Leadership. Additionally I earned a Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of my extensive training and advocacy through Michigan Association of School Boards; training which has brought results in my service. During my tenure I have served on every board committee, including as chair of the Strategic Planning Committee and an External Relations Committee. My experience, networks and education training has had a direct impact on the strategic plan, policies and programs, and successful advocacy at the state level which brought over half a million dollars back to our district.

Terms of office are currently six years.  Will that present any challenges for you?

Absolutely not, I have already demonstrated a commitment by completing my first term of more than five years. In another six years my youngest will still be in middle school, and I will still be a dedicated advocate of public education.

Explain what Board Governance means to you.

We are elected to lead the district vision, policy and budget. Good governance requires a clear plan, transparency, and an effective collaborative decision making structure that appropriately involves our administration, professional team, the Board and community. It is our responsibility to set good policies which align with our strategic plan, and the internal controls necessary to ensure our resources are being allocated in the most effective ways possible toward the mission of the district. As a board we have one employee, and that is our fabulous new superintendent Blake Prewitt. We set the vision and policy, he is in charge of implementation.

We have a superintendent who is new to FPS and is in his first superintendency.  What implications does this have for the Board of Education?

Originally some may have had concern over the sudden departure of the administrative team and the loss of institutional knowledge. However, in true Ferndale fashion people throughout the district immediately stepped up and helped out to make the transition as seamless as possible. While this may be Superintendent Prewitt’s first superintendency, he brings extensive experience, training and has an impressive network of mentors and colleagues. Superintendent Prewitt’s fresh eyes have already been showing positive improvements in instruction, operations, communications and especially our district culture.

Ferndale, like many other districts in Oakland County, has an achievement gap based on race.  What do you propose be done to close that gap?

The foundation to all achievement lays in the climate of the learning environment. Our strategic plan took a bold step in setting expectations for developing a culture of achievement in our schools. The district team has already begun working with positive behavior intervention supports and restorative practices. Additionally, research has proven that achievement improves when students are more engaged. This is why our instructional team is working with teachers to develop strategies such as project-based learning and integration of technology.  We are working together with families and community groups to set high expectations and provide the needed resources and supports to succeed. I am proud that according to the data, our at-risk students continue to outperform state expectations, but we can do better. Furthermore there is a wider issue of childhood poverty in this state and country, and true success will require the support of policy makers to address the district funding inequities and underlying causes of poverty.

Does standardized testing help or hinder education of our students?

Current standardized testing practices in this state are strictly punitive. They in no way offer the timely and personalized feedback which educators would need in order to apply interventions and help students improve. These unreliable tests are used to evaluate teachers and districts. They are a waste of time and money.

A comprehensive strategic plan was adopted by the board.  What three things would you identify as your top priorities from this plan?

My priorities are those pertaining to achievement, sustainability and equity:

Achievement is the center of our mission. The development of a comprehensive behavior plan that will foster positive student behavior and the elimination of discipline problems as a real or perceived parent and student issue is key to moving us forward.

Sustainability is another of my key issues. One thread of this is the development of a comprehensive strategic marketing plan to achieve retention, enrollment and new program development goals

Equity in our district was something the community shared as an important value. Meaningful progress requires the development and implementation of a long-term community and school initiative that honestly addresses issues of race and racial bias, whether that bias is intentional, perceived or an unintentional pattern.

What is the role of a school board member with regards to advocacy and legislation?

This is an area in which I have been increasingly active, particularly around issues of social justice and school funding parity in Lansing.  I believe school board members can fill an important role educating both policy makers and community members about the impact of education policies and funding. By staying informed on educational issues we are able to identify challenges before they hit, and sometimes even effectively work with our legislators to find alternative solutions. I mostly think it is important that we continue the pressure to provide adequate funding to our public schools.

Please list three (3) assets of our school district. (Other than our wonderful students!)

 Our teachers, community and board team.


Name  Keith Warnick

Address  800 LaPrairie St   Ferndale

Phone and/or E-mail address where citizens can reach you

How long have you lived in the Ferndale School district?

29 years!

If you are a parent, did your children attend Ferndale schools?  Why or why not?

Both daughters went through 13 years of Ferndale Public Schools, starting at Jackson Elementary School and graduating in 2000 & 2003.

Why are you running for this position?

Frankly, I was asked.  Over the past year and a half, while attending various district and community functions, parents & employees told me they wished I was still on the board.  So, early in July, I talked it over with my wife; fully supportive, and met with some local district leadership to find out about the positives & negatives over the past 18 months.  Hearing the comments, issues of accountability, governance & transparency, I decided to submit my nomination forms.  Because to me, by NOT running would be an acceptance of current board strategies and actions!

What specific experiences have you had that would prepare you for this position?

Visit my website, to see my complete Volunteer resume and school board training classes I attended through the state school board association!  More than (150) classroom hours of training; more than all current school board members combined!  A few examples:         Ferndale School Board member 8-1/2 years; elected 2004 & 2008; Board V/P (5) of those years; Board President for 18 months.  27 years of district PTA membership/volunteerism.  Exceptional knowledge, through research, of the school district.  Elected to MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards) Board of Directors in 2009 by School Boards across Wayne, Oakland & Macomb Counties, succeeding over long time incumbent.  Re-elected in 2012, succeeding over past-president of the National School Boards Association from Mt Clemens School District.

Terms of office are currently six years.  Will that present any challenges for you?


Explain what Board Governance means to you.

The board has responsibility for setting policy & strategies that move the district forward.  Those policies and strategies are implemented by the Superintendent and his staff.  Board governance also means, to me, that whatever policy or strategy you propose, the board also takes full responsibility by making sure implementation proceeds and is finalized.  When I was on the board, I made my decisions on pending policy votes based on first, what is the benefit to our students/district.  This was done by research and questions submitted before the vote came to the table.  In all the years on the board, I never backtracked after the fact; I lived with my vote because I felt it was in the best interest of ALL of our students, not a small percentage.  And none of my votes were made to appease any political entity!

We have a superintendent who is new to FPS and is in his first superintendency.  What implications does this have for the Board of Education?

‘Implications’ is not the correct word.  A bit too negative assumption for me.  Challenges may be better.  A first year superintendent with a fairly inexperienced school board can lead to many challenges.  There is no way you can judge the performance of the new superintendent right now. 

We will have to wait to see how the implementation of the strategic plan takes place.  There has to be collaboration, as with any board and superintendent structure.  There has to be a stretch of time to get familiar with each other and find out their tendencies.  There has to be an understanding of each other’s role and not try to overstep your responsibility.

Ferndale, like many other districts in Oakland County, has an achievement gap based on race.  What do you propose be done to close that gap?

Over the last decade, we have made progress in raising the achievement levels of all of our sub-groups.  That, I believe, was a main reason in Ferndale High School being designated a Reward School recently.  Continued emphasis on early childhood programming and strong reading programs will continue that growth.  Here is a statement from Timothy Bartik, Upjohn Institute:   

“Research shows that middle-class and low-income students get similar test score gains from preschool. In addition, low-income children benefit from positive peer effects in income-integrated classes.

We must make sure we connect with parents of pre-school age children.  The more we concentrate on early education, the larger the benefits later in school and in life.  It has been said that for every dollar invested in early childhood education, there is an $8-$16 return on that investment.  Ferndale was one of the early implementers of full-day kindergarten before the state mandate.  We need to have an effective method of determining student growth.  But we first must know where the students start in order to get them to where they need to be.  Years ago, I asked our director of curriculum if we were heading toward IEP’s for EVERY student!  That may be a consideration; for internal use only so we can develop strategies that help students gain in achievement.  Another thing that has been implemented in other districts is to have teachers visit their incoming students at their homes during the summer; giving them a picture of what the students life outside the classroom is like because that also has an effect on student learning. 

Does standardized testing help or hinder education of our students?

Standardized testing is great at finding out what the student knows on that day at that time!!!  20 years ago, as Jackson Elementary PTA president, I was asked to coordinate snacks & juice for the elementary students taking the MEAP test.  The principal went to each classroom and told each student that they MUST pass this test!  That was the day my youngest daughter developed test anxiety!   Standardized testing is but one checkmark in a long point list that will determine the level of understanding a student has.  Even the ACT! admits that their test is only accurate half the time in determining college success!  (We prove that fact every year with our FHS & UHS students that score in the 17 to 19 range yet continue to succeed at the state’s and nation’s elite universities!)

A comprehensive strategic plan was adopted by the board.  What three things would you identify as your top priorities from this plan?

Student achievement; Secondary school (7 to 12) reconfiguration plan; Elementary reconfiguration planStudent Achievement:  An ongoing process!  As mentioned above, focusing on early childhood programs pay huge benefits later in school life.  We can also look to tutoring and mentoring programs for upper grade students.  Continued effort on professional development for and collaboration among our staff, including para-educators that should have education background or degrees.  Implementing programs for parents that will allow them to understand how to help their students succeed.  This should be done with the PTSA Council and state PTA that offers exceptional examples of how this can be done.
Secondary (7 to 12) reconfiguration plan:   The talked about plan is to move the 6th grade students to the Middle School/High School complex.  I have not heard any parent that is in favor of this proposal.  What is the rationale?  Because a former superintendent, now working with the strategic plan proposal company suggested it?  Or is there an ulterior motive?  Are 6th graders ready for this?  This was tried many years ago; 6th grade students were transferred to Best & Coolidge Junior Highs.  I think it lasted one year. 

So what would I propose?  Implement an Early College program at FHS.  4 years you get a HS diploma and Associates degree.  There are other types in Michigan but they require 5 years to achieve.  SLC’s; small learning communities.  There are multiple ways to implement this option.  Smaller classes financed through grants to assist those that need individualized attention; programming pathways leading to college, community college or careers.  Students choose the pathway that fits best with them and programming is individualized.  (IEP’s for all again.)  And apprenticeship programs.  There are hundreds of successful machining apprenticeship programs across the country.  I have secured partners ready to work with any school district and many former clients that are anxious to participate by guaranteeing employment after high school for those interested in continuing the apprenticeship.  Why not Ferndale!  These are some of several ideas I have come across in the last couple of years that will excite not only our students but those in the surroundings area and bring in more students and more revenue.

Elementary reconfiguration plan:  Proposal to change our magnet K-6 and two grade level (K-3 & 4-6) schools to three K-5 elementary schools.  With that, expected to have (3) programs for parents to choose?  Our student population is not growing; birth rates have declined and with the slowness of the economy, many families are moving.  I don’t think we can maintain one magnet school let alone three!  And it would be a statistical nightmare. But IF we go to this new arrangement, we must make sure to maintain district diversity across all schools.  That is a natural occurrence at FMS/FHS; it is not currently at our magnet school which increases the ratio at Roosevelt & Coolidge.  Let’s consider incorporating some STEM based programs into our elementary schools; possibly project-based learning along with a language immersion class across all grades.  Innovation to attract.  We also must remember that changing to K-5, Coolidge was originally a Junior High School (Kennedy as Best was built as a K-8 I believe), so it is not designed for smaller students!  There would be considerable costs to make renovations. 

What is the role of a school board member with regards to advocacy and legislation?    How much room can I use?  I’ll just state some highlights of my advocacy & lobbying efforts locally, statewide and nationally!  Mid ‘90’s, requested school board not to change the foreign language program that start in Kindergarten for my oldest daughter.  Two years later, it started in first grade.  Then requested our school board not to make the same type of change for the elementary instrumental program; two years later, it started a grade later for my youngest daughter.  In 2000, as PTA Council past president, partnered with MEA Uniserve Director, Cal Mott, as co-chair of Ferndale Anti-Voucher campaign.  I enlisted strong parent involvement as team leaders; Nancy Schmidt, Cyndi Chouinard, Jackie Koivu, Mary Schusterbauer, Darcey McLaughlin and more to coordinate support.  Defeated the DeVos led initiative by 80% against/20% for!  Biggest gap in Oakland County.  Early 2000’s; requested board of education to support a resolution from Granholm to use tobacco settlement money for $4000 scholarships for all HS graduates.  Upon being elected to the board in 2004, I brought legislative knowledge to our board meetings on a monthly basis.  Having been assigned to be our representative to the Oakland County School Board Association, knowing many of the other district attendees through my state PTA Board of Manager position, Ferndale became relevant in Oakland County.  That led to being given an opportunity to go to Washington, DC participating in the NSBA (National School Boards Association) FRN (Federal Relations Network); 900+ school board members from across the country descending on DC and our legislators to lobby for equitable NCLB funding, etc.  I attended for 7 straight years and had an opportunity to ask Arne Duncan directly about the penalties for classified ‘failing’ schools through NCLB, and what that meant for our University High School.  I pushed our administration to submit information about our UHS success to the American School Board Journal Magna Awards program.  We were a 1st place winner for Innovation & I accepted that award at the NSBA education conference in Chicago in 2010!  As a MASB Board of Director, I have extensive experience in lobbying.  Again, check my website, that will show all of the education events I have attended from 2004 until present.  I recommended Ferndale submit presentations to MASB for their fall conferences and we gave those in 2011 & 2012.  Hundreds of hours, and add to that the thousands of PTA hours as unit president, Council officers, then president, state board member giving training across the state and out of state diversity training.

So to answer the question, it’s extremely important.

Please list three (3) assets of our school district. (Other than our wonderful students!)     Facilities:  After this most recent bond construction is finished, (a bond that I aggressively campaigned for by knocking on every door in the Charter Township of Royal Oak and several South Central Ferndale streets), we will have some of the best facilities in SE Michigan.   I have supported the last three bonds over twenty years.  Out facilities are better than any of the inner ring districts in Oakland County, better than Berkley, better that Royal Oak, and Madison Heights.  Great facilities encourage great teaching and learning. 

Volunteerism: For a district the size of Ferndale, we have a large amount of volunteerism; and not just because it’s mandated in certain programs.  We have had, and still have, parents of students that graduated 20 years ago helping when and where they can.  It’s been that way and will continue to be that way.

Opportunities: I have said for years, and many people are now touting the same thing, that the best Ferndale Students are as good as or better than some of the students from the higher per-pupil districts in Michigan.  Many National Merit finalists over my time in the district.   We have had students get full ride scholarships to University of Michigan; graduates attending MIT; full ride plus Coca Cola scholarship to attend Purdue University Engineering program; McGill University in Canada.  For decades, we have had foreign exchange students in our district.  CASA for alternative and AP classes; growing AP and honors programs at FHS.  Partnerships with Lawrence Tech and Wayne State.  All opportunities for our students.  (Our wonderful students!)