Seurynck finds criticism ‘tough to take’Published 9:25pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012
At Christmas, Larry Seurynck, the president of the Dowagiac Board of Education, said at City Hall Wednesday, sent a hand-signed letter to each district employee to “reach out.”
Seurynck said his missive asked employees what they needed, what the board could do to support them and to “give us your dream and we’ll fight for it.”
“I didn’t get a single response, I’m sad to say,” said Seurynck, explaining the board recruited Supt. Mark Daniel and Deputy Supt. Ed Yoder to make a difference in the delivery of education.
“At graduation last year, I apologized to kids who didn’t (graduate). That’s where my heart is at. When we look at graduation rates in this district, in every other district in Michigan and across the country, we’re losing 40, 50, 60 percent of kids who enter kindergarten. We have all the kids we need, and this could be a growing district without financial problems if parents look at our district and don’t want to leave Dowagiac.
“If we don’t do something positive, we’re going to be just like every other district in Michigan,” said Seurynck.
Seurynck related talking to a school official from a district “a ways north” of Dowagiac and “they’re just stuck. Their board’s divided, they’ve got no serious ideas on how to retain students or bring students to their district. Their fund equity is down to between 7 and 8 percent and they’re going to have to borrow money this summer to make payroll. Once you fall under 10 percent equity, it’s a downward spiral you really can’t stop. It’s very difficult with decisions that need to be made to rally our staff.
“We’ve maintained our arts programs, such as band and choir. ‘The Sound of Music’ was fabulous. This district is about the people, the fine staff we have that we take great pride in …. I’m here because in my heart I’m dedicated to this district. This is the work I do for my soul.
“The innuendo that we’re firing administrators and pulling a fast trick is pretty tough to take. I thought this was a fairly boring thing until I started getting emails and reading social media that got everybody fired up. We had an idea of turning the high school into two elementary schools and, based on feedback from staff and state laws that came along, we backed off and changed direction. You’ll hear a lot of ideas coming out of this board to move our schools forward, but one thing you haven’t heard is larger class sizes and cutting staff. It’s about closing buildings, not firing people. We’ve fought to keep every position in this district.”