Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Portage School Board -- 21 of 21 precincts reporting (100%) 2 Elected - 4 Year Term
Bruce Bejcek 448 5%
Bruce Frandsen 506 5%
Kurt G. Kuppler 876 9%
Melanie A. Kurdys 1,683 18% (X)
Mark Anthony Martin 744 8%
Dale A. Posthumus 2,920 31% (X)
Dominic A. Pullo 1,315 14%
Joanne S. Willson 846 9%

I am very happy to be one of the two new school board members starting with our new superintendent, Marsha Wells. Thanks to all who helped on my campaign.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I believe the current IB program offered by PPS is a good program. All three of my children have taken IB classes. The language and English classes are especially strong. Both of my older children found the preparation from these classes to be solid.

I have less experience in the IB math & science courses because two of my children went to KAMSC. KAMSC offers AP courses which are also very challenging and excellent preparation for college.

I am a firm believer that all children can learn and we have an obligation to teach all children. I am not certain that the current IB program and KAMSC offer enough choice to ensure that all our children are properly challenged and prepared for life after high school. Within our curriculum offerings, we need to make certain we address the needs of all learners. And we need to do this in a fiscally responsible manner.

We also need to collect more data from our graduates to make certain that our goal of preparing students is in fact being achieved.

I am not yet convinced that IB for grades 6 through 10 is a wise investment. More data is needed to make this determination.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Portage Test Scores are Falling

I have been presenting data from the Michigan Department of Education and School Matters websites which clearly show Portage high school MEAP scores in a downward trend. Here are some numbers to consider:
2001 2006
Math Proficiency 87.4 72.7
Writing 82.3 70.0
Science 82.3 74.6

These numbers can be verified on under student achievement trends.

The current PPS Board and administration have many arguments about why these numbers are not to be of concern. But the truth is, we must be concerned and we must devise a strategy to improve student achievement.

Someone recently asked me how our numbers compare to state averages. I ask, why would a Portage parent care about averages? Portage is clearly an above average school. But we want to be one of the best schools. A better question is how do we compare to the top ten schools in the state? The answer is, poorly! There are schools with upward trends! There are schools with some grades at 100% proficiency! That should be us!

This can be fixed, but the first step is to acknowledge where we are. Then we can really demonstrate that we can teach all children and all children can learn!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions I have been asked in small forums:


Despite the much publicized misstep by the PPS School Board regarding open meetings, they did a good job in the superintendent search. Both Marsha Wells and Roger Rathburn were excellent candidates. I believe Marsha brings a breadth of experience and a positive vision which will help move PPS to a new level of excellence.


Yes, my agenda is as follows:
- Improve communications with the community and the PPS School Board
- Analyze options openly using relevant data and research
- Commit to the goal of teaching all children to the best of their ability to achieve.
I am committed to improving an already good school district, to a great school district.


I believe the current Board members have a strong commitment to the well-being of the district. As such, I believe all elected members will strive to develop a strong working relationship, regardless of individual differences.


I have been very clear with my dissatisfaction with the new high school science curriculum. It is helpful to remember, the curriculum process was new when science was reviewed. Very few parents were part of the process, but I was deeply involved and informed. The process has been changed to include many more parents, and the result has been very positive. The proposals from the Math Committee have received wide-spread support. I believe continued improvement in the process will lead to better decisions.

Meantime, we need to ensure the best science education for our children. I will continue to work on improving science education as a board member or as a private citizen. Please call me for more information on the Sciecne Curriculum.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Portage Schools Can Use Data to Improve..Letter to the Editor

While Portage has a good public school system, emerging evidence indicates the Portage Public Schools’ High School academic achievement has been in a steady decline for the last five years. One of Portage’s strongest marketing factors has been a highly respected and high-performing school district. Declining performance of a school district affects all residents. In light of the allure of the Kalamazoo Promise and improvements in surrounding districts, such as Mattawan, we risk declining status and associated falling property values if we fail to recognize the problem and act upon it. This is a wake-up call to Portage citizens to become informed and voice their concerns.

The facts about Portage Schools' academic achievement and MEAP scores are readily available on the Michigan Department of Education website ( and the Standard & Poor’s SchoolMatters website ( The Board and Superintendent have demonstrated a state of denial when presented this information over the last five weeks with responses of deflections, deferrals and excuses.

From 2001 to 2006, Portage high school MEAP scores have dropped in reading, math, writing and science, four key areas important to life long success for our students. Over this time, the number of students scoring proficient on the MEAP has gone from a high well above 85% to the current 2006 numbers, most, below 75%. Other districts have shown a decline, but investigation shows that districts similar in characteristic to Portage have not declined as significantly.

The PPS Superintendent claims the PPS MEAP data on these websites is not the same as what the district receives from the State of Michigan. He is correct. However, the data available to the district has lower achievement scores and reinforces the finding that Portage high school MEAP scores are in a clear declining trend.

The Board President and Superintendent suggest that MEAP trends are not a good indicator for academic performance. But that is not what the experts say. The Michigan Department of Education website has a page called Design and Validity of the MEAP test. It states, “Properly used, the MEAP test can measure academic achievement as compared to expectations and whether it is improving over time and to determine whether programs and policies are having the desired effect.” Standard & Poor’s says, “For many, the most compelling performance benchmark is to compare a school, school district or state against itself over time, for the purpose of measuring continuous progress. By analyzing trends and changes over time, patterns emerge that can help identify the “gain” in academic achievement and gauge the effectiveness of education initiatives…”

The MEAP is important to students and parents as well. Students must pass the MEAP in order to qualify for the Michigan Merit Scholarship. The number of Portage students qualifying for this important scholarship money has dropped over these five years, making college much less affordable for our children.

The declining data is contradictory to what Portage Schools say about themselves. Consider the misleading claims the administration calls PPS Points of Pride as reported in the Portage Gazette October 2, 2006 and in the marketing brochure for the Portage Education Foundation Campaign Drive:

1) MEAP scores in the 90th percentile – S&P reports a consolidated number they call RaMP, Reading & Math Proficiency, as 85% for PPS for 2005. Portage 2006 MEAP proficiencies by grade for math & reading average is 88% proficient. In terms of relative position in the state, PPS is at about the 87 percentile range. Clearly, PPS has fallen below the 90th percentile.

2) Above state averages in all areas at all grade levels – It should be noted that PPS average annual changes are on a slower improvement and faster decline than many of the State average annual changes. If the current trends continue, PPS could fall below State averages within four years.

3) S&P named PPS District as an “Outperforming District” for 2004 and 2005, placing this in the top 8% of Districts statewide. –This claim is untrue. Portage was named Outperforming District for 2003 and 2004. PPS has dropped off the list for 2004 and 2005. S&P no longer considers Portage an “Outperforming District”.

Could it be that Portage students are not trying hard enough? Evidence suggests otherwise. Over the last six years an increasing number of students have been enrolling in International Baccalaureate courses, one of PPS most challenging curricula. And the number of students achieving high honors, over 3.0, has also been increasing. In his 2006 letter to the community, the Superintendent commented that he believes Portage students are serious about their education.

Could it be that Portage teachers are causing this decline? It is unlikely since the decline is occurring throughout the district. And every student and parent knows that we are blessed with teachers who care deeply and work hard to educate our children. The most likely cause of this decline, as suggested by MDOE and S&P, are the policies, procedures and processes established at a district level.

The Portage School District is still viewed as a high performing school district throughout the State of Michigan. The PPS School Board and Superintendent must acknowledge this problem now, so we can begin working together to change policies and processes to create a positive trend of academic achievement.

While some will view this as an attack on the Portage School District, it is rather intended as a wake-up call to the community. Defining the problem is half the solution. Failing to recognize there is a problem is a sure road to failure.

Melanie Kurdys is an active volunteer parent in curriculum development and other parent committees of the Portage school district.

Why Portage Needs New Perspective on the School Board

» More From The Kalamazoo Gazette

Portage board defends meeting site
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
By Sarita 388-8575

Portage Public Schools trustees and the district's attorney say the school board did nothing wrong in moving a discussion of candidates for superintendent from its board room to a conference room without public notice.

After two 90-minute public interviews with superintendent candidates at the district administration building Wednesday, trustees moved to a conference room to discuss candidates' merits. The room had a board suitable for writing down notes and was better suited for the board to have dinner, but trustees also wanted to critique candidates in private, the board's president and vice president said.
``These are people -- their lives and their careers,'' board president Shirley Johnson said of the candidates. ``We wanted to be extremely sensitive.''

Melanie Kurdys, who is running for a school board seat May 8, said she asked Johnson and board attorney John Manske if she could attend the meeting in the conference room, but was discouraged from doing so. Kurdys said she decided not to attend because she felt she would be a distraction as the board considered possible successors to retiring superintendent Pete McFarlane.



"I will work to create an environment where our children can become all they want and more than they imagine."

  • Proud mother of three
  • Portage Northern High School "PTO" President 2 years
  • Portage School Curriculum Committee member 2 years
  • Portage Schools Strategic Planning member 2 years
  • Math tutor in four different states over 10 years
  • 1977 Graduate University of Michigan Bachelor of Science in Math
  • Retired Director of Information Systems


  • Listen to and serve the community by being accessible and accountable.
  • Engage the talents of individuals in our schools & community.
  • Analyze options openly using relevant data & research.
  • Decide, emphasize "best for our children" and fiscal responsibility.

"After High School" Math Expectations Research by Kurdys

Link here to see the research analysis conducted by M. Kurdys for Portage Public Schools as part of the math curriculum review. Despite complaints that the math standards are "too hard", clearly, the new Michigan High School requirements are a move in the right direction to improve student college and job readiness.