School board candidates weigh in on district’s future

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Candidates for Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education discussed the need to make tough decisions for the district and its students during a candidates forum Oct. 4.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters Dearborn – Dearborn Heights, the hour-long forum featured a question-and-answer session that included cutting the budget and ways to increase finances coming into the district.

The general election will be held Nov. 8.

Three candidates for the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education — Stephen Dobkowski Jr., Roxanne McDonald and Mary Petlichkoff — each had varying ideas for the district’s future. A fourth candidate, Joseph Guido, was absent.

The candidates said they believe teachers need more help from parents to make sure students get the best education possible.

“The key is to get involved,” McDonald said. “We have to make it interesting and not feel like they’re wasting their time.”

Dobkowski said not only would he support a program that encourages parents to get more involved, he would donate his pay as a board member — $9,039 -— to make it happen.

“That is probably the simplest, yet most effective thing I can do,” he said. “Teachers should not be held responsible for problems with children.”

He said he is also in favor of a regional taxing authority that covers southeast Michigan, and using that money to supplement the property taxes that would go back to the district.

“We need to broaden the local funding for schools. We cannot get around that,” he said. “If we don’t, the district will be in the same situation the city is in.”

Petlichkoff disagreed with Dobkowski about the tax base.

“We don’t legislate for the state as how to raise tax revenue,” she said. “That’s not our job.”

The candidates also discussed instituting later start times than the current time of 7:20 a.m., including an extra hour before classes start and moving to a flex schedule for some students. Dobkowski was against the measure, saying that it could pose a problem for parents.

“When you start adjusting starting times in delivering these children to school, the parents work schedule is affected,” he said. “You have to be careful how you adjust those times.”

On the issue of anti-bullying, all three candidates said they were in support. McDonald said she was happy with the citywide initiative for doing away with bullying launched Sept. 14. The kick-off included an event at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center and includes three anti-bullying events per year and parent education seminars, according to published reports.

“This initiative can make a big difference. I’m thrilled it’s citywide,” she said. “It sends a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by our city.”

The candidates also discussed the possibility of year-round classes. Dobkowski was against it, saying the idea only came about in the last 15 years as a way to cut expenses. Petlichkoff and McDonald were supportive of it, but said there is still work that needs to be done, and it may not be feasible.

“Personally, we know it is educationally in (the students’) best interests to not have a 10-week break,” she said. “I would like to see it explored again, but the parents were not as engaged as we would have liked.”

McDonald said the students lose a lot of what they learned during the time off.

“So much time is spent (during the school year) catching them up to where they should be,” she said. “It’s the best way to go in the ideal situation.”

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at