Well, we are just days away from the election, and I thought I was all done blogging about myself. I have already covered why I love this community, what my priorities are, why I am running, and what I bring to the table. However, over the last two weeks I have realized that there is one more issue I can and must address, given my 22 years of law enforcement experience.
School is a place where our students and their teachers should feel safe. It should be a place free of distractions and disruptions where teachers and students can focus on what’s important without worrying about interruptions and potential violence. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many in our schools. Students and teachers are in fear of what the next threat may be and whether “it could ever happen here”. The recent threats in our high schools highlight this. The constant disruption has impacts on the learning and mental health of our children. Working in an environment where there are threats or the fear of violence has a negative impact on teacher retention. We can’t ask the brightest and best minds out there to teach our children if they don’t feel safe.
In South Lyon, fear may not be the only (or even the biggest) emotion related to safety. Many are angry. Angry that someone would make a threat simply to cancel school. Angry that their education, plans, and events are in the midst of constant upheaval. Angry that this has become the new way of life as we seem to know it. In addition to students and teachers, parents, administrators, and those throughout the community share this frustration.
To address the issues of school safety, as well as threats (real or hoax), our district must rely on two main ideas: strong relationships with local law enforcement and quality communication. SLCS schools are spread among multiple municipalities in three counties. This means the district must work to develop partnerships with multiple agencies to ensure that our schools are safe and secure, but not operated like detention facilities. The district needs to be able to clearly communicate plans and actions before, during, and after an event. In my career, I have seen the benefits of healthy relationships between schools and law enforcement. Unfortunately, I have also seen what happens when those relationships or clear communication are not present. I would hate to see that happen in our community.
So what does a board member do about this? With my law enforcement knowledge and experience in community policing, I will work to continue building strong bonds between our district and the agencies responsible for protecting our children and staff. There is a solid foundation in place and I will ensure that it is allowed to flourish and grow, improving where necessary, and serving as an example to other districts. I will also insist that our administrators are constantly working to update, improve, and test our action plans in the event of emergencies and threats. These plans must also include clear communication strategies so that staff, students, and parents are apprised of appropriate and timely information. As tragic as events around the country (and in our own backyard) have been, we can learn from each of them to continue making our schools as safe as they can be.
Our children go to school in different times than many of us did years ago. Things are scarier and less certain. They need responsible adults who will make the right plans and decisions to keep them safe. Our teachers and staff have to deal with so much more than they probably should in order to create a safe and productive learning environment. They need district leaders who will work with the right professionals to ensure they are safe when they come to work. As someone who has worked in law enforcement for over 20 years, I think I have what it takes. I look forward to using what I have experienced and learned to make SLCS not only a leading district in this state, but also a safe one. I hope you will vote for me on November 8th - or any time before then if you vote absentee - and share my name with friends and neighbors.
I've had the opportunity to chat with a number of people around town about my qualifications for this seat on the board, and I often get the same response (a look of surprise!) when people learn that I'm a police officer. If that surprises you, too, keep reading! I think my 20+ years in law enforcement has actually equipped me with a number of unique skills that I can offer SLCS as a Board of Education trustee.
When I first started my police career, I spent a couple of years assigned to a community policing position. My job was to get to know the business owners, employees, customers, and residents of a downtown area which was mostly comprised of retail space and bars/restaurants. As issues came up in that area, I was responsible for working with various stakeholders in order to come up with solutions that benefitted the whole community. If I had not invested time building relationships with people throughout my beat, I never would have been successful in addressing their needs and concerns. This was my first professional experience in community partnership and it taught me a lot. It's been nearly twenty years since I walked and biked on that beat, but I still maintain relationships with many of the folks I met when I first started.
Law enforcement involves a lot of conflict. We are often called to help resolve issues between people, whether they are criminal issues, civil issues, or involve quality of life concerns. As I transitioned to supervisory roles, I found myself facing additional conflicts. I was now responsible for conflicts between employees as well as between the community and our staff. As a new supervisor, I had the opportunity to become a de-escalation trainer for our department. This gave me the chance to help others address conflict in a way that was sensitive and sought positive outcomes. I enjoyed this aspect of my job as it utilized my empathy as well as my desire to really explore all sides of a conflict and find a solution which was most beneficial to all involved. Much of what I learned as a de-escalation trainer has helped me to better work with people in difficult situations throughout my personal and professional life.
In more recent years, I have strengthened my skills as someone who can help an organization to operate in an organized way. My Masters in Public Administration focuses on working in public organizations, especially within local government. In my current role in my department, I am responsible for much of the administrative work to keep the department functioning and thriving. This means I have developed skills in strategic planning, analyzing what is going on, hiring new staff, ensuring staff is trained and prepared with the resources they need, and looking to the future to develop a plan for success. These are qualities and skills which position me perfectly for a role on the school board.
Getting yelled at
A while back, as my wife and I were watching a board meeting, she turned and said "who would want to be on that board, just getting yelled at all the time?" To be honest, as a cop, getting yelled at is my wheelhouse! Try writing tickets on a game day in a certain college town--you're not very popular. Obviously, that's a lighthearted poke at only one aspect of a job I truly love. I love helping people and working in my community.
Overall, I believe my professional accomplishments in over twenty years in law enforcement have given me the knowledge, skills, and abilities to best serve the South Lyon community by being a part of the school board team. I hope you agree and will vote for me on November 8th (or any time now if you have your absentee ballot. Also, I would love it if you would share my name with friends and neighbors in the district. If you have questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or leave a note here on the site.
Well, hopefully by now you either know me or have at least heard about me. Perhaps you've seen my name on green signs around town, or maybe you even got an awesome pinwheel from me at the Pumpkinfest Parade. I've leaned into the shamrocks and the green because I really love to embrace my Irishness... Irishicity... being Irish (read to the end to see how serious I am) but the shamrocks are also a nod to how very lucky I have been to call South Lyon home. I feel lucky to live in an amazing community and be able to send my kids to great schools. In the years I have lived here, I have been fortunate to get to know so many friends and neighbors that make South Lyon the awesome place that it is. The excitement of Pumpkinfest is a prime example of just how great this town is when everyone comes together. To me it really marks the beginning of another great school year for the kids.
Luck Isn't Enough, Though!
South Lyon's continued growth presents us with tons of opportunities. A growing community means more ideas, more talent, and more opportunities to make our schools even better than they already are. It's important to take advantage of these things. As we continue to experience growth, we can't rely on luck alone to see us to success. We need strong involvement from parents and the community if we want our schools to stand out as leaders in their field. Additionally, we need leadership in order to take advantage of the many great things that South Lyon has to offer. In order to be the best, we must capitalize on the tight-knit community full of talented folks who want the best education for our children.
How can we build on the foundation we are so lucky to have?
I am running because my experience in leadership in a public organization, my education, and my connection to this community give me the tools necessary to give back and help build on that strong foundation. Here are some of the ways I would do that:
1.Make some noise at the state level about the inequities in school funding
Not all schools are funded the same. Even though the state doles out tax dollars to fund districts, that money is not distributed evenly. Some districts (like South Lyon) get the minimum amount. Other districts in the same county are getting three to four thousand dollars more per pupil. It's complicated and it isn't as bad as it used to be, but it's still not equitable. As a board member I would work with state legislators to find more equitable ways to fund school districts. In fact, just this week, I had a conversation with State Representative Kelly Breen on this very topic.
2.Work hard to retain the awesome teachers we have and recruit new ones by making SLCS a desirable place to work
Teachers are in high demand and short supply. The fact that teachers leave South Lyon to go to other districts means that we have quality teachers that other schools want, but that we cannot keep them here. We need to find ways to show our teachers that they are valued and respected. This requires a combination of pay and benefits that is attractive along with other things that make the district appealing (professional development, appropriate access to resources, etc.).
3.Expand opportunities for all students.
As South Lyon continues to grow and become more diverse, we need to recognize that we can compete with the best districts out there. To do that, we must be sure to have course offerings at all levels which are in line with - and better than - neighboring districts. This could mean expanded access to career and technical education, growing our Advanced Placement offerings, or finding other innovative opportunities to help children grow and learn. It is important to identify the ever-changing opportunities our students need in order to be successful. It is even more important that we do whatever we can to provide access to those opportunities so that South Lyon children are receiving the best education in the region.
When we first bought a home here almost twenty years ago, we thought it was kind of a fluke. We had been looking at other areas and stumbled upon a home here. It seemed right because it was smack dab in the middle of where my wife worked and where I worked. Coincidentally, it was where my parents lived when they first got married. As time has gone by, I've realized it was the luck of the Irish that brought us to this amazing community. We couldn't imagine calling anyplace else home. But I am not going to let my luck run out by just hoping for the best in our schools. I am excited to get to work as part of the board of education team and do what it takes to help this district succeed and excel. I hope that you will vote for me on November 8th. I would love it if you would share my name with your friends and neighbors as the election nears. As always you can reach out to me via this site, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.facebook.com/electpatrickmaguire
Perhaps the most important question people may have is just what issues I am running on. As I told people when I was first seeking petition signatures to get on the ballot, I think it is important to note that I am not running because I am a single issue candidate. I did not come up with this idea simply because I became upset about something in the last year or two. Being a board member has been on my radar for years. I think SLCS does an overall amazing job and I want to see that continue. There are, however a few issues I feel are important to help South Lyon Schools to grow as a leader in education.
Helping schools grow as the community grows
We all know that growth in the South Lyon community is something that has been happening for years and will continue to occur. I've seen many families proudly share how long they have been a part of this community. Others are just moving here from places near and far. I believe it is important to embrace this growth and change by engaging with everyone. It is important that everyone in the SLCS community has a voice - whether their family has lived here for generations, or whether they just built here this year. By acknowledging that our community is growing, and seeking ways to use this to our students' advantage, we can make South Lyon even better than it is today. I will do all I can to connect and work with all families throughout SLCS.
As the community grows, it is important that we secure every penny for our students that we can. Many don't know that the state per-pupil funding is not the same from district to district. State school funding has a long and complicated history. I won't bore you with the details, but there are some important things to consider. For example, South Lyon Schools receives $8,700 per student. Neighboring Novi Schools receive $8.948. Farmington receives $10,353 per student while Bloomfield Hills, also in Oakland County, was able to secure $12,517 per student in state funding. It is only fair that our schools have as many resources as possible to work with as the district grows and serves an increasingly diverse community. I will work to find ways to ensure that our students have access to state resources which are allocated fairly, and not according to how far down 10 Mile their address is. This includes partnering with state leaders to make school funding equitable.
Fostering a safe, inclusive environment
As a law enforcement professional for over 20 years, safety means a lot to me. I have seen what it takes to keep a community safe; it takes the partnership of all stakeholders working together to identify and predict possible threats while working to mitigate them through policy and practice. As a board member, I will work to help the administration develop and improve policies which keep students and staff safe every day. The second half of that job is finding creative ways to fund safety initiatives without needlessly taking away from educational funds. I will work to strike a balance between creating an environment which fuels growth and learning and one which is also safe for all involved.
While we often see physical safety at school discussed in the news, it is just as important that we focus on the emotional and mental factors that help students and staff feel safe each day. Students should come to school each day in the proper mindset, ready to learn from staff who are emotionally prepared to educate. I will work to make sure that mental health is an area of focus so that the entire learning community is best situated for success. This includes ensuring that all feel welcome and included as South Lyon continues to grow and diversify. Our schools cannot be a successful team if some feel like they are pushed to the sidelines.
While these are only a few of my concerns, they are some of the issues which most compel me to seek a spot on the SLCS Board of Education. I welcome questions or feedback. You can comment below or email me at email@example.com. In the mean time, I hope you will share my name and why I am running with your friends and neighbors throughout South Lyon. Most importantly, I would love your vote on November 8th.
What made you decide to run? That is usually the first question people ask when they find out I am running to be on the school board. Sometimes it sounds more like ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ Or ‘are you crazy?’. But regardless of how it’s asked, the answer will always be that I have a committment to service.
Growing up, my parents were models of community service. As a contractor with his own business, my dad would donate his time and services to Habitat for Humanity when they were building new houses. My mother, a lifelong educator, volunteered with the Washtenaw Literacy Council teaching adults to read. As a kid, it was just routine that our family would spend at least one Friday night a month working at a local soup kitchen, preparing and serving meals. Experiences like this taught me the importance of contributing what you can to your community.
Every community has needs and all of us have different skills. The challenge is looking at ourselves to identify those skills and then determining how we can match them up with the needs around us. Throughout the years I have lived in South Lyon, I have looked for ways that I can help to give back. Serving on my church’s board of trustees or helping with my son’s cub scout pack are examples of fun ways I found to take part in the community I lived in. But as many of us know, there are a lot of things that make it very difficult to volunteer or get involved. Young kids, crazy hours at work, and projects around the house were just a few of the things that sometimes made it seem like there was not an extra minute for extra-curricular activities. As my children have grown older and (slightly) more independent, my work schedule has left me more time, and my education and work experience have armed me with more tools to take this on, I have realized that this is the perfect time for me to focus on service to this wonderful community by running for school board.
The SLCS Board of Education is something that I have been interested in for some time. Unlike my father, I am not so great at building things with my hands. Trying to help my 10 year old with math homework has shown me that I don’t have my mother’s skill as a teacher. When I earned my Masters in Public Administration, the focus was on leadership roles in public organizations, specifically in local government, so it only makes sense that I would be attracted to the idea of serving on the SLCS Board of Education. This is an opportunity for me to use skills I have developed in strategic planning as the board makes plans and decisions for the future.. As a de-escalation trainer, my conflict management skills will help me address issues which can sometime divide even a tight-knot community in a way that is rational and empathetic.
Our communities are only as good as the people in them and South Lyon is already pretty great. South Lyon Community Schools are an outstanding place for our children to learn and grow. In order to maintain these excellent schools, we need to work together to give what we can. For me, I think that means using my experience, knowledge, and leadership ability to serve as a board member. I hope that you agree and will help get me there by voting for me on November 8th.
I love to write and I'd love to explain where I stand on issues that are important to you in future blog posts. Feel free to email me with any issues that you'd like me to address and check back for future blog posts.
Need info on all the candidates?
Visit vote411.org, input your address, and see what all the candidates for SLCS School Board stand for. There are two different races this November. One is a six year term with four candidates running for two spots. That's Patrick's race! The other is a two year term with two candidates running for one spot.