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Posted on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

Six Ann Arbor superintendent candidates announced, including Roberto Clemente principal

By Danielle Arndt

The names of six semifinalists in the search for Ann Arbor Public Schools' next superintendent have been released, and among the top contenders is one familiar name.

Ben Edmondson, principal of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, one of the district's alternative high school programs, was identified among the frontrunners.

Two of the other semifinalists are from Michigan as well, and two are from the East Coast.

The other five candidates are:

  • Richard Faidley — current superintendent of Derry Township School District in Hershey, Pa.
  • Sandra Harris — retired superintendent of Oak Park School District in Oak Park, Mich., and former AAPS and Lincoln schools employee
  • Henry Hastings — current full-time instructor at Eastern Michigan University
  • Brian Osborne — current superintendent for the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey
  • Jeanice Kerr Swift — current assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for the Colorado Springs School District in Colorado Springs

Edmondson's name emerged in the community as being a great choice for the district's next leader months ago. A group of local residents started a petition in support of the board considering him as a candidate back in late April, before the job posting for the superintendent position was advertised by Ray & Associates, the consulting firm hired to assist in the search.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools received 61 applications for the open superintendent position. The Board of Education deliberated in closed executive session for nearly seven hours Wednesday to narrow down its applicant pool to seven candidates. Board President Deb Mexicotte said Friday that one of the applicants the board had selected to move on in the search withdrew his application.

Current Ann Arbor leader Patricia Green is retiring effective July 9 after just two years with the district. She was hired in July 2011 on a five-year contract.

The Board of Education also announced new meetings related to the superintendent selection process.

A board study session was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on July 2 in the Balas Administration Building main conference room. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss interview questions as well as the plan for the week of July 7, during which the six superintendent candidates will visit the district, receive a tour and meet with key school officials and community and building leaders. Interviews of the candidates will be open to the public.

The semifinalist interviews will be conducted at the Courtyard Marriott, at 3205 Boardwalk in Ann Arbor, on Monday, July 8 and Tuesday, July 9. They tentatively have been planned for Monday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The board may hold a regular meeting at a to-be-decided time following the Tuesday interviews to select the finalists. Otherwise, the regular meeting will be planned for the next day, according to a news release announcing the candidates.

Interviews with the finalists are planned for Monday, July 15 and Tuesday, July 16. Locations and times will be announced.

Mexicotte said in the release that the school board is very pleased with the list of semifinalists and welcomes the community to attend the interviews.

A regular Board of Education meeting will take place at 7 p.m. July 17 at the Courtyard Marriott for the purpose of selecting the next superintendent of the district.

It is the Board of Education's goal to have a new superintendent in place before the start of the 2013-14 academic year. A start date will be formally determined during contract negotiations and be dependent upon the candidate's availability.

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


Frustrated in A2

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

I know Dr. Edmondson and Dr. Harris and they're both excellent candidates. That's a tough choice between the two if I were choosing.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Since Dr. Harris was superintendent at Lincoln, has she in some way contributed to the financial mess Lincoln is currently in? Why did she leave? A retiree and someone who has been principal for two underenrolled schools are not "excellent candidates". It will be easy for the BOE to overlook them for the short list. Edmonson has been job shopping outside the district already. While getting a spot in the final six may have been due to a petition,the support of a mere 56 parents is in no way representative of the district.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 3:43 a.m.

If you know Dr. Harris, do tell why she wants to come out of retirement! That just makes no sense to me unless she's blowing through her money too quickly.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

My experience with Dr. Edmondson is that he is charismatic but unresponsive and focuses primarily on his own specific interests rather than the whole student body. It was a great relief when he left Scarlett and the school has a much better vibe now that he is gone. It would be a huge mistake for AAPS to hire him as superintendent.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 12:27 a.m.

I agree with both comments. It would be a mistake for the BOE to hire him at this point, he is not what the district needs. Yes, there were vacancies at other high schools, but for some reason he was passed over for these positions? I am not sure that he feels he is too good, I believe that the district actually recognizes that he is not good enough for a comprehensive high school. He is very self centered, many of his staff meetings were were about superintendent jobs he had applied for all over the Midwest. And this is what his staff had to sit and listen to, his EGO talking! Mr. Edmondson does not seem to have the varied and intensive experience that would benefit our district. I am hoping that he is one of the finalists because it is what people wanted, for the BOE to consider local people, and that this is the only reason he made the final list. Charisma isn't a top priority without other valued leadership characteristics, and EGO never is!


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

Exactly what my concern was. We need a leader for the entire district, not just one segment of the population. Where was Edmonson when Pioneer and Skyline needed principals? Or was he "too good" for them? He sounds like he is a nice enough person, but not well- rounded enough for the district. The fact that he's been job-shopping outside the district speaks volumes to his dedication here,


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:29 a.m.

Also, great job to and Danielle for doing such a consistent and thorough job with news coverage on this. If we were relying only on BALAS public relations notes about the process, taxpayers would be in the dark about what was going on. I think if Danielle hadn't stayed up through the end of the absurd 2 a.m. meeting and reported on what happened, taxpayers would not know how ineffective their elected school board members are on many issues. About the candidates: I agree with other commenters who are highlighting Osborne's seemingly good communication skills, but it's a big change to go from a small district in New Jersey to Ann Arbor. Why does he want to leave his job and where else is he looking besides Ann Arbor, if his aim might be to move up. His background is impressive. I agree that finding out where Swift applied and who was chosen over her might shed some light on her. The others seem to have deal-breaking problems. I don't see Harris wanting to come out of retirement as a positive and wonder if she has ties to some of the people Green hired in Balas who came from other Michigan districts. I don't know enough about Edmonson and want to hear what local staff, teachers and administrators would say about him, not just parents who like him. What happened to Gary Court as a candidate? Was he only a candidate for interim superintendent or did the board not choose him? He sounded promising to me based on years in the district and doing well with different school communities. I don't know much about him, but had a favorable impression.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

Mr. Court left Tappan for an easier job as he has been in the district a long time. He has shared this with me, as a former parent in his building. There is not way he could handle the pressure of the entire school district, even though he is very nice! I thought it interesting that when he became principal at Tappan, that we, as parents, could never call and be directly connected to him. We had to leave a message, and then he would return the call later, not always in a timely manner. After being able to reach previous principals directly, this was a huge disappointment. It was not like I was calling to inform him that someone looked funny at my child, there were serious issues. And people out there think he would be good for the district? Sounds a little like the current superintendent to me!


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:27 a.m.

@Danielle- Is the school board going to have a citizens committee make a recommendation on candidates, similar to school PTOs making recommendations on principals. I have little confidence in the school board's ability to choose someone who will be effective. In fact, with Mexicotte at the helm, I doubt her take on who will do a good job will match a majority of students, parents and staff who have a vested interest in the district. Mexicotte's judgement seems absent. She will put a positive spin on nearly any disaster and has done this so many times, her credibility is shot as a leader of the board. I think the board should make Christine Stead president. She and Thomas and Lightfoot are the only trustees who have had the courage to raise points that vary from the group think. Patalan's quotes about optimism from another article are offensive given that teachers took a pay cut and are facing possible lay offs. I would like to hear candidate's reactions to various things the school board has done and how they would handle working for a board that operates in such dysfunctional ways. From doing incorrrect math at 2 a.m. to the board president claiming $5000 is just pennies, how would these incoming candidates handle a school board that consistently makes a mess out of so many issues.

$5,000 is just pennies

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 4:27 a.m.

Does Ben Edmondson currently belong to the Administrators union AAAA? This could be a real concern should he have to negotiate with them at some time in the future. Are his leadership skills strong enough to separate himself from these friendships to bring the district back to financial solvency? Or, would it be business as usual with no meaningful concessions?

$5,000 is just pennies

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Knowing he was a member in the AAAA, it would be difficult to consider him a serious candidate. The district needs some change, starting with the legacy costs of the administrators. Does he have other family members in the school district? His last name sounds familiar.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Yes, he does and he was part of the negotiating team for AAEA on the teacher's contract when he was a teacher according to various online stories.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

I actually had Hastings at EMU and he was charismatic, outgoing and intelligent. Can't say I know anything about the others but I am pulling for Hastings - who is a lawyer by the way and primarily teaches Business Law.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

I don't get he impression from Hasings pic that he is anything you say. If he is, he needs a new pic pronto. Osborne looks outgoing and friendly.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

I think the unprompted donation of his raise to the education foundation speaks to Osbornes character. Twitter account- great- aren't we tired of a superintendent that lacks communication skills? I also think Swift is a possibility- since she is frequently on the short list, so she has qualities many schools seek. You can keep the lawyer(Hastings), and the job jumper (Faidley), and the "retiree looking of a few more bucks who is CEO of her own company (Harris). Lets see Osborne or Swift. Oh yeah, Edmonson. Not even on the radar due to lack of experience. A school with less than 100 students doesn't help. We need someone who can work for ALL students. My guess is his finalist slot shows that the BOE listened to the handful of parents with a petition. And caving to pressure about consolidating A2Tech and RC does not show backbone. The AAPS super needs a spine to deal with all the bs.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

I like Brian Osborne's background -- good education and teaching and administrative experience. He seems to have been actively involved with the communities he's served in the past. He has a nice smile and looks approachable. And with two young daughters, he might be likely to come and stay here because it is a great place to raise and educate your kids.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

Here's a link to the updated post with the candidates biographies:


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

I don't know anything about any of them.But I hope the fact that someone has a twitter account is not a prerequisite. Twitter seems to be the mouthpiece of choice for athletes and celebrities. I could care less about hearing someones every tweet about what they are doing!


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

Why do they need a twitter account when we can simply FOIA for anything that we would like to know.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

While I agree that Twitter should not be a prerequisite, it would be nice to get short, informal, timely updates from the administration, even on matters not important enough for the newsletters.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

Some links based on the first 2 pages google displayed on each candidate based on the information in the article. Dr Richard Faidley - 2 Years in his current job. Sandra Harris - retired for the last 3 years Not much else on a quick google search. Henry Hastings - Business Law EMU Brian Osborne - Jeanice Kerr Swift - has been a finalist in several searches Ben Edmondson is local and most of the articles are from or It is a more diverse group than I expected. If you want to work on budget and staffing there is a candidate. if you want to work on the achievement gap, there is a candidate. If you want the national spotlight there is a candidate. If you want an internal candidate there is one. If you are a fan of 2 year tenures, we have a candidate.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

So who is the budget/staffing candidate? Osborne? Unfortunate for Jeanice Kerr Swift that she looks like Patricia Green's sister.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Communication-wise, Brian Osborne has a Twitter account, which he has used for school communication: His school district has had to fight off a Mandarin-immersion charter, which would have siphoned off kids & $$.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

@belboz-- There is a difference between "coddling people in the establishment" and understanding complex people organizations and what it takes to help them to work successfully and cost-effectively. In my experience, "Bulls in china shops" rarely bring that kind of insight to their work. ;-) We need someone who will care when they leave that they have been an important part of creating a viable effective organization very much focused on educating our community's children in an effective way......within the cost constraints that we now find ourselves facing.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

Communication-wise, Brian Osborne is on Twitter and seems to use his account for communication about his current school district: And, his school district had to fight a Mandarin charter school that would have pulled kids away from his school district (along with $$).


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

It seems a Bull in a China shop would provide some much needed shock to the system. Some of the local choices don't seem ideal. When it comes to redistricting, closing schools, and cutting administration and professional salaries, a "get it done" approach might be best. Time to quit dancing around the issues and trying to coddle people in the establishment.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

That's what the district needs. It's too bad, because we are likely to get a "status quo" super because the board are "status quo" kind of people. I was hoping that they would pick a business person with experience in trimming fat from an organization, but that was hoping for too much.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

Just a quick note, we are working on publishing biographies and photos of the candidates. We are waiting on one candidate's information due to a technology error that occurred when the district was sending them out. I'll post a link in this story to the new post with the bios as soon as I can. Thanks!


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

I also wonder if they will speak to people from their previous jobs, not just their current jobs. If speaking only to the current employees/coworkers, there may be a fear of being truthful due to fear of repercussions.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

After some quick google searching, I am impressed with the reviews that Dr. Hastings gets at EMU, but I don't know if that helps him in any way as a Superintendent. I was also very impressed with Brian Osborne and donating his raise to the foundation - totally unprompted by the board. I guess the question I want to ask, but can't, is "Will your spouse move with you?" It seems like it would be hard to stay in A2 if your spouse is in Colorado, NJ, PA, etc...


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

But since it's illegal to ask, it's irrelevant to post isn't it ?


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

In Ann Arbor, family situation apparently makes a big difference - look at Dr. Green. She actually did own a home in the district, but everyone was always saying "She doesn't even own a house" or "She only works 4 days and goes to Maryland to see her husband on the weekend". It shows you are really interested and invested if you bring your whole family here.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 4:48 a.m.

Dr Osborne is obviously interested in the job. That's all that matters. His family situation is irrelevant.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

So Richard Faidley is a job jumper like Green, having been in his current job for only 2 years, and willing to leave with 2 years left. Jeanice Kerr Swift seems to have quite a variety of responsibilities in her background, and apparently a ton of teaching, curious to learn more about her. Henry Hastings from EMU is an attorney and a realtor, as well as an educator, things AAPS may be able to utilize, for good or bad. Apparently Sandra Harris was superintendent of Lincoln schools at one point. Curious why/ how she left. Brian Osborne donated a raise he received as superintendent (he was quoted as being a "change agent for the schools"). He made the donation to the schools education foundation, without any prompting, just because he knew it was needed. Sounds like he could be the leader this district needs- start at the top.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 4:47 a.m.

I also like Dr Osborne.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

It seems that it would be helpful for a district of the size and complexity of Ann Arbor to hire a superintendent who has at least served in a deputy superintendent position, and preferably in a superintendent position, in a district of similar size and complexity for some years. That is not to say that experience as a teacher and building administrator are not also important credentials--they are very much so. However, understanding how to administer a district in ways that enable teachers and building administrators and other central administrators to do their jobs, with oversight/accountability but without micromanaging, is a very challenging thing to learn how to do. Learning how to sort out what is happening in a complex budget, in order to oversee appropriate fiscal responsibility, is also a very challenging thing to learn how to do. Usually it takes some years of education and on-the-job experience to develop a vision of how to do those things. Once a person has become the main person in charge, those things are considerably more difficult to learn on-the-job, because folks expect the superintendent already to have the leadership and vision to understand how to address such challenges effectively. If an internal candidate is selected, I hope that everyone will be satisfied that the person is able to rise above previous loyalties and peer groups, and become superintendent of the entire district. When a person is moving from a building principalship to governing the entire district, it is sometimes difficult not to rely on one's inner circle from one's previous building to provide the inner circle of support for governing the district. That can be a negative for the health of a district.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:11 a.m.

Edmondson was successful at Scarlett. There is some question if he has been successful at Clemente. Liking someone is not necessarily a quality we want in a superintendent. I felt the concern raised above, in that can Edmondson rise above previous loyalties and peer groups, is of utmost importance. This is very important as we face many struggles ahead as a district if we want to remain solvent, and independent of an Emergency Manager. I believe that what we need at this time is someone with more experience, which you have to admit, Edmondson just does not have. He has very limited experience, in spite of the length of his resume/biography. Such a lengthy piece written by Edmondson indicates that he loves to write about himself, but where is the realistic experience?


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

I'd strongly second the doubts you've both expressed about both Ben Edmondson and Sandra Harris (who is a former AAPS teacher, now in a leadership position in Oak Park)

Momma G

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

As much as I'd like to see a current/former employee, I don't think either Ben Edmondson or Sandra Harris are the right fit for Ann Arbor.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

I've never met Dr. Edmondson, and I assume this will get me downvoted, but he is the principal of a school whose ACT scores were 50% lower than the other high schools in Ann Arbor. Less than 15% of Roberto Clemente students are college ready compared to 48% for Community. Is this really choosing excellence in education?


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

I've dealt with the former Clemente principal, Joe Dulin as well as I have dealt with Dr.Edmondson at both Scarlett and Clemente. I definitely saw a change at Clemente under Edmondson's administration. Clemente is not a "typical" program as we all know and though there were some challenges at Scarlett as well as an at risk population of students I feel the two warranted different administration. That being said, I don't think Clemente was the right fit for Edmondson, I feel he faired well at Scarlett and though there were some disagreements (there always will be) I think he made changes for the better there. I wouldn't mind seeing him in a higher position such as Superintendent, I think he has good leadership abilities and he's knowledgeable and caring about the AAPS program as a whole.

Basic Bob

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

@ChrisW, The dean of Community is not on the list, so this is not a valid comparison. Not everyone gets to pick their students like CHS. The superintendent of AAPS is responsible for all students, not just ones with cars, supportive parents, and lunch money. I have met Dr. Edmondson, when he was principal of Scarlett Middle School. The improvement in attitude at the school was remarkable. He inspires people around him, he challenges teachers, students, and parents to work together and treat each other with respect. Not knowing the rest of the candidates, he would be a vast improvement over the outgoing superintendent.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

Actually, there was an article a few months back that when you looked at the statistics they presented you found that both test scores and graduation rates went down under Ben Edmondson. While I do not disagree with Ed's assertion that, "The population at Clemente is not representative of the population of the rest of the school district", it does appear to show a decrease in the effectiveness of the program under Ben Edmondson. Personally the one that causes me the most concern is the candidate that retires from Oak Park. We are not looking for another short-timer, and I am concerned about the popular abuse of the retirement system that sees many administrators slip back in and 'double-dip'. Is this seriously what the BoE considers a real candidate for their 'short list'?


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Ed, I don't disagree, but have things improved at Clemente under Dr. Edmondson? Has he shown that he can support advanced students in previous assignments? Maybe he took a tough thankless job, in which case he might be right for the district. As I said, I've never met him, so am withholding final judgement, but I do wonder what criteria the board is using for their choices.

Ed Kimball

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

Yes, I'll vote you down. The population at Clemente is not representative of the population of the rest of the school district. The school focuses more on students who have struggled in the traditional school system. It is unreasonable to expect them to perform at the same level as the students who have shown they can succeed in the other schools.

David Barnett

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

I don't know any of the other candidates, but Dr. Edmondson would be an excellent choice. He's committed to the district and very highly qualified. Not to mention a genuinely easy to talk to person with a history of delivering success within the district.


Fri, Jun 28, 2013 : 7:35 p.m.

I wish Randy Trent were on this hiring committee. Even though he was part of Balas, he was involved with the nuts/bolts of running the schools - facilities. And, he's lived through probably 15 superintendents. And, he lives in the AAPS district (as opposed to the out-of-state location for Green). He cares about the outcome of this "temporary" choice.