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Posted on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Appointed school board elects new Ypsilanti-Willow Run leadership

By Danielle Arndt

The presidents of the former Ypsilanti and Willow Run school boards were elected to the positions of president and vice president, respectively, Monday night, during the first meeting of the appointed school board for the unified district.

Residents of Ypsilanti and Willow Run approved merging the two financially unstable and academically struggling districts in the Nov. 6 general election.


David Bates, left, and Don Garrett at a joint Ypsilanti and Willow Run meeting in April 2012, when both boards first voted to pursue consolidating their two deficit-operating school districts.

Danielle Arndt |

The seven individuals recently chosen to serve the new consolidated district also will serve the separate Ypsilanti and Willow Run school systems until July 1, the official birth of the unified district. These seven trustees were sworn in to both the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school boards Monday.

“In July, you will take the oath of office once again and have the opportunity to reorganize and to reselect the leadership of the new unified district,” Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki told trustees, explaining they could “switch it up” at that time, if they so chose.

The appointed board members, David Bates, Don Garrett, Celeste Hawkins, Greg Myers, Maria Sheler-Edwards, Daniel Raglin and Anthony VanDerworp; will remain trustees of the unified district until the November 2014 election, during which all of their seats would be up for re-election.

Bates, the former Ypsilanti president, will serve as both districts’ president through at least June 30, 2013. And Garrett, former Willow Run president, will serve as vice president for both districts until then.

These two men each were nominated for the position of president. However, the vote was 5-2 in favor of Bates. The split showed Willow Run residents (Garrett and Myers) voting for Willow Run residents and Ypsilanti residents (Bates, Hawkins, Sheller-Edwards, Raglin and VanDerworp) voting for Ypsilanti residents.

The split got Lavada Weathers, a lifelong Willow Run resident who campaigned in support of the merger, all fired up.

“I certainly hope that my personal effort in working for the consolidation will not be a waste … and that you will not vote 5 Ypsi to 2 Willow Run in everything as you did for board president. … Please do yourselves and us a favor and research the rich history of Willow Run,” she said.

Myers was elected unanimously to the position of secretary for both boards, and VanDerworp was elected, also unanimously, to the position of treasurer.

Ypsilanti previously did not have a trustee serve as the secretary or treasurer, while Willow Run did. Bates said it had been Ypsilanti’s practice to appoint the administrative assistant to the superintendent as board secretary, and the acting chief financial officer for the district has served as treasurer.

Lisiscki said the board bylaws of both districts provide for either procedure.

For Garrett, having a board member serve in that capacity is important for checks and balances.

“Not micromanaging, but those people would sit in on the meetings … and act as the third party there checking over things, making sure everything is going right,” he said.

The roles are mostly just titles, said Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin, and the board still may assign select duties to district staff.

In addition to serving as secretary, Myers will serve as the board parliamentarian, whose responsibilities include ensuring that the board adheres to Robert’s Rules of Order, keeping time during public comment periods and getting the board back on track if it gets off topic, Lisiscki said. Ypsilanti also had not previously had a parliamentarian.

The joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run board also set its meeting dates at Monday’s regular meeting.

The meetings will continue to be at 7 p.m. on Monday nights. But rather than the second and fourth Monday of each month as the Ypsilanti school board previously had met, the meetings will be the first and third Monday.

The first Monday will take place at Willow Run Community Schools and the third Monday meeting will be scheduled at Ypsilanti.

There was much discussion about the meeting schedule and about how many days per month the board would need to meet to handle the business of each separate district, as well as to complete the vision and launch of the new unified district.

The idea of meeting for visioning and study sessions on the first and third Thursday of each month, as Willow Run previously did, was tossed around. The study sessions would be for handling the work of the unified district.

However, trustees thought switching up the days of the week that the meetings were held would be confusing. So the board agreed to stick with Mondays.

VanDerworp suggested scheduling the study sessions as needed. But there were some conflicting opinions on this. Both Myers and Garrett vocalized the number and the magnitude of decisions that needed to be made in order to launch the new district successfully.

“I think we have to look at opening up our availability,” Garrett said, adding he would like the board to take a second look at its meeting schedule from now until July again on Dec. 3.

“We cannot drop this ball. There are a lot of people trusting in what we said we were going to do. … A lot of people went from ‘no’ to ‘maybe’ to ‘yes’ on the consolidation … and we have to meet more.”

Garrett said serving on the board is going to be strenuous and it’s going to be hard and cramming all of the work into fewer meetings is not going to produce the best work.

So far, the board set a retreat from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 8 to take part in some Michigan Association of School Boards training on how to best function as a board under Ypsilanti-Willow Run’s unique circumstances. The retreat is pending the MASB’s availability.

The board also set a work session for 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 14 to begin the process of developing plans for the new district.

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


Gretchen Ridenour

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

I am new to the Ypsi school district after living in Pittsfield for 20+ years. I voted for the Ypsi-WR merger after speaking with long-time Ypsi residents and with Emma Jackson at WISD because I wanted to be as informed as possible. Both districts' residents voted for the merger 68%-31%. Because I don't know all the history behind the merger, I am concerned about comments by Lavada Weathers, "YPboyWRheart" and "YpsiGirl4Ever". They sound political, very negative, and assume failure. The residents of these 2 school districts have taken a leap of faith that this merger will result in a better educational experience for the students than each school individually. And we adults owe the students the opportunity for this to occur. In the past 22 days the merger was approved, a new school board appointed, and shool board leadership elected. No one promised that the merger would be easy, and certainly there will be differences in opinion. But If the adults in our community are not willing to allow the process to take place without a negative attitude, then surely there will be failure. But if we commit to the merger + hard work + positive attitude + student-centered, then our students can expect that failure + failure will = a much better education. Since we expect this merger to succeed, then the students must be the priority and we must commit and contribute to the process. The kids deserve at least this much from us.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 8:14 a.m.

From talking with parents in these former school districts, I hate to say it but Lincoln, Van Buren, A2 Public Schools and nearby Charters better get ready for the spikes in enrollment next August/September. Many parents are not happy in the least how some combined school board members were "appointed" or with the unstable nature of what's going to happen with teachers and current districts' property holdings.

Dan r OBryan

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

i tried to tell the willow run school board ,and town hall meetings. Willow run should have found its own answers .our debt was being reduced , ypsi was in way to deep. .this merger looked to be the easy way out .will its a mess waiting to happen . sorry ypsi girl .i was once a willow run boy ,but they crushed that


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

Didn't they have a grant to write and pass that is due in 3 days that is the core part of their finance plans? Or maybe even discuss some of the current school districts' business that they have to attend to like how Ypsi is going to pay it's teachers or what they are going to do about EMU opening a charter school in WR? It's great that they now know who gets the golden gavel and who takes notes, but how about meeting to do something? "The board also set a work session for 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 14 to begin the process of developing plans for the new district." It's a bummer that the holidays fall right after their selection, but they wanted the jobs, they need to do them. They need to be meeting each and every week to figure these things out. They were told that there would be a time commitment, so it is worrying that there does not seem to be more of a sense of urgency here. But it is good to see Garrett is pushing for more meetings. At least one of them seems to understand the seriousness of what is going on.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Can't wait to see a reorganization of teachers at all levels of WR and Ypsi. Especially WR Hi School. Glad it is closing this year. I really hope they get better teachers. Can't wait to see how the new BOE works out next year.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

It's always the teachers fault...never the administrators or the BOE or the government or, god forbid, the parents of the children. Always the teachers with people like you.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

And so it starts Lavada. The Ypsi takeover. This WR board will go down in history as the board who scuttled the ship, crashed the Flyers. You were elected to better the schools not give them away. 2mill in debt vs. 12 mill. How smart was that.

Dan r OBryan

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 1:19 a.m.

your right ,willow run has become the life line for ypsi. this whole merger is such a mess


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

all this looking back "how we did it" without the humility to say "and we failed" is not going to get the job done. Willow Run or Ypsilanti "pride" ignores the reality that both districts FAILED. And realize you are more likely to fail again if you dn't start faving forward and getting our mutual acts together. Otherwise, its better to close them down. its just that simple.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

I am now choking a bit on the baloney. both boards have made terrible decisions (ypsi hired a bean counter than couldn't count beans, willow run hires superintendents...well, lets just say the board and the past few supers haven't done well for the students. both districts are failed districts. failed. F-

Dan r OBryan

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

willow run could have survived ,willow run got suck into ypsi schools mess . a basic plan would have saved willow run .ypsi schools was way out of control .ypsi needed a life support and willow run became the donor. we called it higher education ,but it was a ypsi school bail out. ypsi schools couldn't and still hasn't figured out a way to pay the staff into January. i dont support this merger .i feel for all involved .this new district needs a basic set of rules ,, CHILDREN ATTENDING THIS NEW DISTRICT ,COME TO SCHOOL PREPARED TO LEARN .SHOW YOURSELF AND OTHERS RESPECT .parents should have to sign a contract .your child is here for a education .not to socialize and disrupt education ,school is not a fashion show, schools education is for the students future ,. if your child is caught disrespecting staff or students education they will be expelled .


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

WR was going downhill after 2008. There was always never enough money to support that school. Plus the children were going to Belleville for school choice. No wonder enrollment was down. Maybe this go round both systems can turn things around.

Dan r OBryan

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

the process begins. ypsi or willow run ,nothing here really answered any questions that needed answered , nothing was answered before the election .so im still against the merger ,i cant believe it passed , i think students and staff are in for some hard times

Dan r OBryan

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

for this new district to succeed bob, they need to inform staff and student and parents of both districts the projected plan. how much staff will be eliminated or replaced .[for cost cutting measures]. which schools will be eliminated [which vacant buildings will be in your neighborhood]cost cutting measures . Ypsilanti cant pay their staff into January ,so to succeed .some one needs to lay out the projected plans. we call all this for higher education ,some people can see between the lines .it was a bail out of one dead broke district and one that could have survived. so if i sound negative,give us something to be positive about bob

Basic Bob

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

This is only the first board meeting. They took care of the necessary business. This is all we can ask for the first meeting of a brand new school district. Good luck to them, they need our support if we want the students to succeed.