19 people apply for school board of proposed consolidated Ypsilanti-Willow Run district
Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com
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.