Seven silly moms, one great school.


I promised myself I would sleep on the events at Monday’s school board meeting before saying anything about it. It’s easy to get angry about something you really should be laughing at, and the plea by a cadre of Farms mothers fell squarely into the laughable category.

So, get this: In a district where opposition to schools of choice is so widespread the concept isn’t even argued, a small corner of the Farms north of Moross wants its own version of it. Students living there go to Monteith Elementary and Brownell Middle, and then on to North High School. If you can guess the point at which this progression becomes problematic, go to the head of the class.

This section of the Farms is asking for a choice — not for anyone else, just for them — so that their children will be spared the trauma of having to leave their friends and attend Grosse Pointe North.

There’s a way that certain parents around here talk about their children that makes you wonder how any of the precious darlings make it to adulthood. Because you have to understand, none of the objections to North are based on any problem with North, oh no. Rather, it’s about the necessity of their children to have “a consistent peer group” to travel through their school years with. To have to peel off from some of their Brownell friends is a “cruel and unnecessary hardship.”

I don’t want to go on, because I don’t believe this train will leave the station. To these parents, I say: Relax. It so happens I have direct experience with the Monteith/Brownell/North progression, who is at this moment off registering for her junior year there. As a consequence, her peer group stretches from the Park to the Shores, something I always thought was a good thing. (Isn’t that the point of education? To expand your horizons?) But then, we live west of Mack in the Woods, which, to listen to the women who pleaded to the board Monday, might as well be Somalia. Certainly, it has a different park pass.

Here’s what I’d rather concentrate on: Grosse Pointe North is a fine school that comes in for a disproportionate share of abuse from the very people who should be lifting it up. It is every bit South’s equal, with the same curriculum, the same graduation requirements, the same top-quality teaching staff, the same honors and AP courses, the same everything. And yet, it seems a school year isn’t complete until someone who should know better aims a kick at the place.

Diane Karabetsos, running for the board a few years ago, pledged to look into its test-score gap with South. And who can forget last year’s grilling in the Shores, which summoned the principals of North and Parcells Middle School, as well as Superintendent Tom Harwood, to address “concerns” about safety at the two schools. This Patch story captures the grim hilarity of the occasion:

Committee member and area realtor Alex Lucido asked the officials to address the concern about security, which he says directly effects property values in the Shores and the Woods. “We are hearing that there are so many fights going on in the schools. We keep hearing there are fights every day. Girls fighting. Boys fighting,” he said.

Parents in the audience said they were worried the schools weren’t strict and fast enough to deal with troublemakers.

The school officials dismissed all of this, and said rumors of rampant fighting are false.

“We do not have fights every day. That is not true,” Bearden said. He said hallways at North are orderly and when trouble breaks out it is dealt with swiftly. He also said rumors circulating that a teacher was severely injured by a student were unfounded. “A teacher was not put into the hospital by students. This is a rumor.” The teacher did have a minor injury while breaking up two students in a scuffle. It was an accident, and the students were punished promptly, he said.

P.S. Don’t read the comments to that story unless you actually enjoy bathing in sewage.

As for test scores — and may I just say, this is so often cited as a reason for concern I’m wondering if we should add “test scores” to the official Grosse Pointe euphemism list — it’s really pretty simple. The strongest predictor for test scores is a student’s economic advantages (or disadvantages). As Daniel Pink put it succinctly: The higher their parents’ income, the higher their kids’ SAT scores.

As former board member Brendan Walsh laid out in his blog in 2010, North has a sharply higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students than South. He goes on at some length, presents data in graphics, but if you’re pressed for time, see the previous paragraph: Richer parents = higher test scores.

There are no cooties in the hallways that will drag down a North student’s test scores. Sitting next to a poorer kid from Harper Woods won’t do it, either.

But what about elite colleges, who might look at North’s lower scores and say we don’t want kids from this hellhole? Judging from the number of North graduates I’ve known or read about over the years, who have enrolled everywhere from Harvard to the University of Michigan, you’re going to have to prove this problem exists. And so much goes into an typical Ivy League admission decision, I simply can’t believe one’s high school’s aggregate SATs are that much of a factor. Admissions officers aren’t that dumb.

So, then. Could there be another reason North-area parents try so hard to get their children admitted to South? Could there be?

I dunno. You tell me:

Posted at 8:34 am in Education, The Farms |

7 responses to “Seven silly moms, one great school.”

  1. Peggy O'Connor said on August 21, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Unfortunately, there are not just “seven silly moms” in Grosse Pointe. Their attitude is a pervasive one that has existed since I have been in and around Grosse Pointe (56 years now, since I was born in Bon Secours Hospital). Disgusting? Yes. Fed by racist or at the least, elitist, beliefs? Yes. Going to change? No, sadly. These are the same sort of women as those I encountered 20 years ago while working in Grosse Pointe who told me that they NEVER leave Grosse Pointe unless they are forced to. When they travel to Paris or Hawaii or Turks and Caicos for their holidays, they call a limo service and “close their eyes when the car travels through Detroit” to the airport. Yeah.

  2. Chris Profeta said on August 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

    There is discord on this issue in the community, and has been for some time, as this article effectively points out. Kudos to GO Today for pointing to the phrase “test scores” as the dog whistle that it is.

    It has been confirmed to me by several people that this recent controversy is being stirred up by Mrs. Pangborn. I believe it I th job of our community leaders to bring us together to solve problems like this, not divide us against one another as the mere use of the phrase Unite the Farms does.

  3. Chris Profeta said on August 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Excuse my typos…shouldn’t type while rocking g a baby…

  4. Janice L. Petrillo said on August 22, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I do not want to seem naive. I attended North in the 90s and loved it. I still live in the Grosse Pointes and have two North teachers as neighbors. They have both expressed behavioral issues (fights, disrespecting teachers, etc.) at North since we have known them (about 6 years). Why would teachers lie to us if things are as good as you are claiming? I have kids at a local parochial elementary school, so I am not privier to the goings on at Parcells, North, and South. Is the source of this movement really racially motivated?

    I have to say that I went from a west side parochial middle school to North and I had some issues my freshman year, acclimating a) to a public school and b) to a new group of people, who weren’t as welcoming as I would have liked. It took a while to say the least but in the end I loved my HS experience. I think it would have been much easier if we had moved earlier but we moved when my dad got a new job downtown. My sister is much younger than me and she did acclimate much faster.

    Anyway, just curious because I have been hearing more and more about this movement to allow these Farms residents north of Moross to send their kids to South and wanted a little more information. It would seem to me that North’s standards have to be the exact same standards that South has.

  5. LB said on August 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I attended Star of the Sea for 9th grade only, as that was the year the high school closed (’92-’93). Attendance was falling, and the archdiocese proposed busing students in from outside the area so they could attend. I was in 9th grade, and the politics were fuzzy to me then, but that’s what I remember it coming down to – either the school made it easier for out of area (Detroit) students to attend, or it would close. Parents were furious.

    I remember emotions running high. I remember a parent getting in a minority student’s face and verbally admonishing her for….existing, pretty much. The mom spat on her or slapped the girl, or something….there was lots of drama and I don’t remember the particulars. The student involved was a star athlete and on the honor roll. The whole thing was ridiculous and pitiful.

    We all know how that ended. I had to shop for a new high school for 10th grade.

    So I guess I can’t say I’m really shocked by these GPF moms. There is something of a precedent. But it is pretty sad. If they have such a problem with North though, why don’t they put their money where their mouths are and just move? Oh that’s right, it would put them closer to the ghetto. Hrmm.

  6. Mark said on August 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    WOW same story covered in the Grosse Pointe News ( and no claim of racism. I must say the GPN did a much better job of capturing the story.

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