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Posted on Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

19 people apply for school board of proposed consolidated Ypsilanti-Willow Run district

By Danielle Arndt


Current Ypsilanti school board Trustee Linda Horne, left, and local resident Maria Sheler-Edwards make phone calls educating people on the school districts' consolidation proposal from the Washtenaw Dems office in downtown Ypsilanti Oct. 20.

Danielle Arndt |

The deadline for pursuing a Board of Education seat within the proposed consolidated Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district ended at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The number of applications submitted to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District for consideration surpassed school leaders’ hopes.

Voters in Ypsilanti and Willow Run will decide on Nov. 6 whether to merge the two financially and academically struggling districts. If the consolidation proposal passes, the WISD Board of Education will select seven people from the pool of applicants to serve on the school board for the new district.

As of 4:45 p.m., WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel had received 18 completed applications and one partial.

School officials will spend Friday processing the applications and determining whether the WISD’s criteria were met. The names of the applicants will be released Monday, Menzel said. He added current board members from both districts, as well as non-board members from both districts have applied.

“I’m actually really encouraged by the level of interest,” Menzel said. “Many people worked very hard to express their desire to serve and to get letters of support and recommendation. It shows they’re engaged and have a lot of energy about the consolidation.”

If residents vote to consolidate, the public would be asked to participate in two community interviews of the candidates and to provide feedback on the applicants they believe would best serve the new district.

The interviews have been tentatively scheduled (pending the approval of the merger) for:

  • 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at Willow Run High School, 235 Spencer Lane, in the Forum Room
  • 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at Ypsilanti High School, 2095 Packard Rd., in Room 138

The final seven board members would be selected at a special meeting of the WISD Board of Education at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Eastern Michigan University Student Center, 900 Oakwood St., Ypsilanti.

The new appointed school board would serve until Dec. 31, 2014. All seven seats would then appear on the November 2014 general election ballot for staggered terms, with the elected board members taking office effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Menzel said the format for the interviews Nov. 12 and 13 is up in the air due to how many applications were received.

“I’m not sure completely,” he said of the process. “We were planning, if we had 10, we’d have five one night and five the next. They were going to be 30-minute interviews with each applicant given a prepared list of questions from the WISD board. But there may need to be some screening that takes place prior to the interviews … or maybe we’ll have to shorten the interviews so we can get more in … or identify the top 12 or 14 or something.”

At public forums at the beginning of the consolidation process, some community members expressed concern about anyone affiliated with the current school boards or administrations serving again in the new district.

In April, when Ypsilanti and Willow Run’s school boards met together to vote on pursuing the ballot proposal, Ypsilanti resident E. L. Weathers said trustees serving more than 10 years on either school board should consider stepping down.

“Both systems didn’t get in this condition overnight,” he said, referring to the districts’ individual financial deficits. “If both boards drove the bus into the ditch, I don’t think once they’ve put their glasses on … they gonna be able to drive it out.”

Menzel said for those community members with similar mindsets, he strongly encouraged them to take part in the process.

“All of those concerns are legitimate concerns to express. … I would suggest for (people with concerns) to come to the interviews and not to dismiss people out of hand based solely on those concerns, but to look at all the factors before they make a decision. … Because it’s important, and ultimately what everyone wants is for us to identify the best seven people,” he said.

Ypsilanti and Willow Run’s current and separate school boards both have open seats on the Nov. 6 ballot as well. These board races would only matter if the consolidation does not pass.

Ypsilanti trustees Sarah Devaney and Edward Jackson were up for re-election but chose not to run, leaving school board hopefuls D’Real Ryan Graham and Daniel L. Raglin running uncontested for the two open spots. The only way they will be elected to office is if the merger proposal fails. Otherwise, they would have needed to apply for a seat on the newly consolidated district’s board.

The same is true of Willow Run Trustee Mark Wilde, who is seeking re-election for his lone open seat on the Willow Run school board.

The passage of the merger proposal would, in essence, dissolve the two individual school districts’ boards. The newly appointed board for the consolidated district would run the two separate districts until the official merger takes place in July 2013.

The joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run Collaboration and Communication Task Force is developing a draft timeline of what types of decisions would need to be made and policies developed in the coming months, if the consolidation passes.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Don Bromley

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

In case some of you haven't already, check out and do a search for Ypsilanti schools. You'll quickly notice that the only two elementary schools scoring above a 5 on the 1-10 scale are charter academies. We sent our oldest daughter to one of these academies (South Arbor) and were very happy with it. Frankly, as a parent, I wouldn't send my child to the other schools in the area -- we'd move instead. So while some readers may view these charter schools as a negative, they give parents who live in these areas an opportunity to send their children to a decent school, without having to leave Ypsi altogether.

Dan r OBryan

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

im voting no. so all of this could be a waste of time and money .if they do merge ,my children will attend Lincolns schools. if they have to travel for their education ,might as well be at a school that didn't go bankrupt . im sure Lincoln and Ann arbor will pick up the some of the student that didn't believe in this merger anyways . Ypsilanti will have vacant house and schools all over the city

Tom Bower

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Some thoughts.. First, "The newly appointed board for the consolidated district would run the two separate districts until the official merger takes place in July." So, an unelected, appointed board will run the two districts until July 1, 2013 at which time the same unelected, appointed board will run the new consolidated district. How does this differ from an unelected, appointed emergency manager running the two separate districts or the consolidated district. In either case voters will not have elected the board of education. So much for local control, democratic process and giving voters a voice in electing their school board trustees. Second. "The joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run Collaboration and Communication Task Force is developing a draft timeline of what types of decisions would need to be made and policies developed in the coming months, if the consolidation passes." This hasn't been done? Incredible. Third, people are voting on the consolidation issue without knowing, for example, which school buildings will remain open. Voters haven't pressed officials for these types of details or officials haven't provided this information? Unbelievable. Fourth, would consolidation be necessary if the state were willing to extend each district's deficit repayment to 25 years. It's been reported this will be the case if consolidation is approved. What other unreported benefits is the state providing to entice consolidation and the destruction of two districts? Fifth, the state is looking for a "poster child" to use as an example to encourage/brow-beat other districts to consolidate and is willing to provide economic incentives, unavailable to othe districts, to achieve its goal, even as the state's education policies continue to support increasing the number of small school districts through its authorization of public school academies (charter schools), many of which are run by for-profit authorizers, and which are considered individual s


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 3:55 a.m.

Correction: I guess the appointed board will oversee both districts, until the elected board takes over.


Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Mr. Bower, In reply to your concerns about the consolidation: 1. You're close. The appointed board does not oversee two districts. The appointed board only oversees the united district (if it passes) during the '13-'14 school year. Then an elected board takes over for the '14-'15 school year. The appointed board is not similar to an EMF in that the board is a group of people from the community, whereas an EMF is a single person (likely not from the community) with the power to dissolve boards, union contracts, etc. I don't see the similarities.... 2. I agree with you there. This sort of planning should have been done. 3. I understand why which building will be closed has not been disclosed. It would be used as a wedge on the issue. Of course people from WR don't want to close down their beautiful new building, or vice versa. However, it's a distraction from the real issue of whether to consolidate or not. The decision shouldn't be contingent on which buildings will be used. 4. We would be eligible for part of ten million dollars the state has set aside for consolidating school districts. I haven't been able to find out how much, though. 5. Not much to argue with on this point. I don't like the idea of public school consolidation in general, but both districts are struggling, and this is an opportunity to restructure the educational process in the community, while receiving aid to do so. If we have to be the poster-child in the process, so be it. If we had a strong public school district, I'm sure we'd see less charters popping up around here; there would be less of a market for them. It's good to see somebody's is at least taking an interest in this process.