Appointed school board elects new Ypsilanti-Willow Run leadership
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.
Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com
“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.