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Posted on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Superintendent contracts priority of Ypsilanti-Willow Run merger talks

By Danielle Arndt


A community member speaks before the Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education at Monday's meeting about the superintendent selection. The decision to contract for superintendent services through the WISD shocked the audience of nearly 180 people and raised many questions.

Courtney Sacco |

Past, present and future employment contracts for the Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidated school district have taken center stage this week.

And questions have begun to fester as school officials trudge deeper into the uncharted territory of the merger.

The joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education voted Monday to contract with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District for superintendent services for the new district.

No one's quite sure yet how the arrangement would work, and it's predicated on the WISD board agreeing to allow county Superintendent Scott Menzel to run both the WISD and the newly formed Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Community members also learned Monday the new district would be legally obligated to fulfill current superintendents Dedrick Martin and Laura Lisiscki's contracts, despite principals, teachers and other staff being laid off and their contracts severed on June 30 when Ypsilanti and Willow Run dissolve.

"This is something we didn't know during the campaign," Menzel said.

Lisiscki currently makes a salary of $120,000 and her contract is set to expire June 30, 2014.

Martin, who was hired in December 2010, makes a salary of $140,000 and his contract also states it will expire in June of 2014. However, a provision in his contract allows for an automatic one-year extension, if he receives a favorable evaluation and the school board fails to take action to prevent the extension. Because of this provision, Martin's contract now expires in June 2016.

Joint school board President David Bates, who also was president of the former Ypsilanti Public Schools' Board of Education, said the contract extensions could be considered intentional by the board.

"Mr. Martin's contract … has been extended by one year each year that Mr. Martin has been employed, owing to his consistently earning satisfactory evaluations from the Board of Education," Bates said in an email Wednesday evening.

Menzel explained Martin and Lisiscki's contracts must be upheld because they are individual contracts with the districts and there are no clauses that state the contracts may be terminated or non-renewed due to economic conditions. Because a clause of this nature does not exist, even though the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts will be dissolved June 30, case law establishes that the contract provisions then must become the liability of the successor organization, Menzel said.


Scott Menzel

Courtesy of the WISD

He explained this is different than collective bargaining agreements, which are dissolved when the organization employing them dissolves. It also is different than some of the other individual administrator contracts in the two districts, which have clauses for terminating the contract as a result of economic conditions, Menzel said.

Teachers, principals and other employees of both districts already have been notified that their contracts will be terminated as of June 30. All employees will be required to re-apply for their positions.

At Thursday's joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education meeting, school officials will outline the teacher and principal selection process and present a hiring timeline. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Willow Run High School, 235 Spencer Lane.

The contract between the WISD and the new district for Menzel's services, if approved, would last through the transition period of the merger.

Members of the joint Board of Education, who were appointed by the WISD, cited the importance of keeping the consolidation leadership team in place to maintain progress as the reason for their decision Monday night.

Menzel, who has helped facilitate the consolidation from the beginning through an agreement between the WISD and local school leaders, said Monday after the meeting "it would be easier to say no" to serving as the temporary superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Menzel has a full-time job, and already has committed a significant amount of time throughout the summer and on nights and weekends to developing plans for the consolidation and to helping it pass, he said.

"I'm willing to do whatever I'm called on to do, but it certainly would be easier to say no," Menzel said. "… But I'm passionate about (the consolidation) in this sense, that the driving force behind our work is making sure students in eastern Washtenaw County have the educational system that they truly deserve and so desperately need."

It's not clear between whom the contract for Menzel's services would be drawn up or what he would be paid for his time spent as Ypsilanti Community Schools' superintendent.

There is $100,000 set aside for superintendent services in the $6.5 million consolidation grant the WISD received from the state on behalf of the merging districts.

Bates said Monday: "The grant was requested and awarded to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. We actually don't have any control over that grant money, so any questions about how that money will be used will have to go through the WISD."


Board President David Bates speaks at Monday's Ypsilanti-Willow Run board meeting.

Courtney Sacco |

The original intent of the $100,000 was to hire a retired superintendent to help with the launch of the new district while Ypsilanti and Willow Run's existing superintendents, Martin and Lisiscki, were busy leading and closing out their two individual districts, Menzel said. He said the new district has until Sept. 30 to use the $6.5 million in grant money.

"Although with the way the state grant works, there may be the ability to extend the use of those funds for a longer period of time," he said. "We haven't pushed the envelope yet (with the state) in terms of how long we'll be able to stretch out the use of that money, since we're still on the front end of (launching the new district)."

The new district also hired a consultant, Paul Burke from Chaucer, to serve as a project manager for the merger. A total of $150,000 was allotted in the grant budget for this service.

Menzel said the complexity and sheer number of tasks that need to get done in the transition period warrants these distinct roles — someone to provide superintendent services and someone to provide project management. Menzel said he just didn't realize he might be the one to do the latter.

Burke, as project manager, will ensure the new district meets all of the key milestones and deadlines in order to be able to successfully operate by the time school opens this fall, Menzel said. Burke's tasks will be related to combining assets and the legal documentation of the merger, while Menzel's, if approved, would be related to educational policy, instruction and designing a school system that adheres to the five pillars of education that the community established during the summer.

"The project management company doesn't have expertise in the educational arena. Its expertise is in … mergers within the private sector. So it understands the kinds of questions that need to be answered to legally merge two large entities, but it can't provide technical guidance on … establishing board policies or provide recommendations on instruction to the board," Menzel said.

"The board will look to the superintendent to manage educational affairs and … to create an educational system that meets the hopes and aspirations of the community when they voted 'yes' on consolidation Nov. 6."

The $100,000 in the grant for superintendent services could not be used to pay current superintendents Martin and Lisiscki, whom the board voted Monday to retain as associate superintendents in the new district under Menzel's leadership.

"The intent of the grant was to identify additional costs associated with the consolidation effort and to provide funding for those costs. … (The grant money) cannot be spent on costs that would have been born out anyway," Menzel said.

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



Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

Ladies and Gentlemen of our community, it is painfully obvious that there is no intent of this paper, it's editors or any affiliates to investigate fully and or report on any allegations of criminal activity on behalf of the central administration of YPSD. Despite overwhelming evidence that Mark Maynard provided to the paper, and the numerous claims of employees present and past, and the suspicious travel of various administrators. As a teacher, I have not been able to run copies, purchase textbooks, classroom materials to support my students. Yet Ms. Martin, has been able to go on trips approved by the superintendent and board of education, at the expense of re-allocating grant money from it's intended use to various state and national conferences. Not only her but her support staff, secretaries and other employees who work in her office. Look at who went to Vegas for the Powerschool training, Traverse City for the Curriculum Directors Conference, Grand Rapids for the New Tech Conference, and Washington DC for the AdvancEd Conference. All in 2012, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but then again it's only our students and community that is being hurt. Take a look at the travel expenses from a year earlier, since her arrival in 2010 it has been nothing but a luxury vacation for Martin and her friends at the expense of our kids. As a 20+ year veteran teacher in this district, it's time to move on sadly. We just renewed Dedrick Martin through 2016, he knew of this waste and abuse yet did nothing. While she and her "team" which included only select people from select buildings traveled in style, I was forced to take personal days to take students on trips, which we self funded to enhance their experience. I really can't understand why the use of grant funds isn't being investigated, a few of us were sent the file, but nobody seems to have the courage to investigate it. Oh, well another few months and I'll be able to move on and put this behind


Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Danielle, how come you haven't reported back on Jennifer Martin's misuse of federal and state funds, if any? Mark Maynard's Blog is becoming an interesting read. It would appear that the New Tech principal at Ardis, Mr. McElmeel, may have very close ties to Ms. Martin and that Rob Belous may have been on to something. The public deserves to know the truth.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

ALL parties involved in developing the merger should have had the benefit of competent legal opinion prior to the community vote regarding ALL contracts involved in the merger. If that did not happen, that seems problematic. If that did happen, that also seems problematic.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

We need to fight for these teachers. Sharon is the only one who I would trust in hiring the right teachers. But she'll have dumb & dumber looking over her shoulder.

Saddened YP/WR Supporter

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:12 p.m. that there will be three superintendents....what happens to the Assistant Superintendent....sounds like there is no need for that position for awhile...maybe?????


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

Is there a question that it will be said that there is so much work to do that they need the assistant to the assistant superintendent? Does anyone think dedrick martin is actually going to do any work?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

No, now we have three superintendents so we need three assistant superintendents. Duh.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Still nothing from about administrators' trip to Las Vegas?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

ahi, we are researching it to the fullest extent possible. Please stay tuned!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Yes well written and informative. Lets see main points: Acting superintendent Mentel, who already has a full time job, and is not even sure he wants the job, who is the one to set his salary, possibly $100,00. (per Bates "we actually don't have any control over grant money, questions of how that money will be used will have to go through the WISD) Two" assistance" superintendents: (both with contracts that may go until 2016) Martin $140,000. Lisiscki $120.000. Bates, consultant and project manager over merger $150.000. Plus a fee (which escapes me now) to the agency that Mr Wilmot help us find a" suitable superintendent." Well that was money well spent. Well I for one am greatly relieved we have all of these administrator/adviser/consultants, at the top, planning how we can use the 6.5 grant money......before Sept. As our student body continues to diminish, due to the frustration felt by our student's families. I'm a retired educator and have lived in Ypsilanti for over 35 years. For a brief time employed by YPS. I am so saddened by the current situation. I have been adamantly against the Emergence Manager, philosophy......and voted against it. Guess you are never to old to be part of the learning curve. I now understand why in some cases it is the best solution to a bad situation. I wish I had my vote to "do over'. I would not have voted for the merger. I see now that someone coming in from the outside, may have avoided this internal entanglement of dysfunction. Expensive lesson to learn. Yet another top heavy administration, with the students and teacher, yet again the ones that suffer. Very disheartening.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

You havent seen nothing yet. They have to hire an hr director at 100K or more. They have to pay attorneys for the work that irvine did in the last contract when they negotiate the new contract. Probably at least another 200K for that at $200/hr. And dedrick martin is going to request continuing services of his asst superintendant. The asst asst superintendent will be another 100K. Add that to the superintendent and project management costs and you have upwards of a million dollars in just those few roles.

Rob Pollard

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

So they're keeping Martin around in large part b/c a) the previous school board (whose president is now the president of the joint school board - yay!) thought it was a good idea to have a rolling clause which would keep the contract expiration date perpetually 4 years in the future and b) they now don't want to eat the money? Sounds like a recipe for success.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

120K (Lisecki) + 140K (Martin) + Lord knows(Menzel) = 260 + Lord Knows that could be used for teaching students. further, if Menzel can run all three ...then he surely doesn't need Lisecki and Martin. All of this defies logic and common sense. Its not OK! Further, the behavior of this board toward the public is pretty disturbing - dismissal, arrorgance. Why would I put my kid in a place lead like this?!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5 p.m.

The focus should not be on the money. Considering what the district would have gotten from irvine - a superintendent, a full time attorney and a good hr administrator (three 100K+ jobs filled competently by a single person) - it could be argued that she is easily worth 300K/year given the avoidance of other hiring needs. Yes she is absolutely worth more to the district from a cost perspective than martin and lisiscki combined. For martin it is a completely sunk cost and not sensible to allow him to continue his bad management. Addition by subtraction. Give him the money he is legally owed and eliminate his terrible impact on the district asap.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

What I found most amusing at the last board meeting was Bates' saying that he read all the emails sent to him and took into account what the people had to say. The kicker was how Bates tried to tie this whole suprintendent lie into an Ypsilanti resurgence by attempting to draw a parallel to Rutherford Pool and Depot Town.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

To put my earlier comment more bluntly, if this sorry state of affairs was not intended, then it is easily fixed by those involved. And they should do what it takes to set things right asap. If it was intended--so that the communities were blind-sided, a sham superintendent search process consumed valuable time and resources, and the superintendents got a deal that they were not willing to cut for any other staff member--then shame on everyone involved.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

Of course it was intended and of course they knew about the superintendent contracts and the search process was obviously a fraud. Mr menzel might want to hope that people are dumb enough to believe what he denies but there is no question he understood about the contracts from day one.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

This BOE of appointed by SM, who then again is offered a job he didn't apply for or interview for by them. The thought that the teachers unions are the primary supporters of this board is laughable.

greg, too

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

"Mr. Martin's contract … has been extended by one year each year that Mr. Martin has been employed, owing to his consistently earning satisfactory evaluations from the Board of Education" That comment should lead to the board being removed. Test scores are down, students are leaving, teachers are angry, and he has repeatedly failed to hire acceptable administration (evidence by him firing them). And that's satisfactory? If that's all they are looking for, why not post the job on and get someone for $14/hr to do it?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

I wish I could vote up 100 times! You hit the nail on the head. NOW we need to nail the the Board members. THIS IS CRAP and they know it. The fix has been in since December.

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Here is the link to the Ypsilanti districts cancellation of classes:

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Meanwhile....the district cancels all classes for another day because of power issues at the High School, stating that because that is where the hot lunches are prepared for all schools, all schools must remain closed. Over the four weeks of February, no classes will have been held for 10 or more of those 20 days. If this new School Board had any hope of keeping students whose parents were on the fence regarding charter or home schooling, they'd have shown up at the grade schools today and prepared sandwiches. And who are the primary supporters of the elected School Board Members? A: the members of the teachers unions. Pathetic. Any person in a real job who worked or managed situations this way, would soon be without a job, or out of business.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

Your complaint about school closures is absurd, especially considering that 5 of those days were scheduled break days, similar to the amount in other neighboring districts (others had 2, 3, or 5). YPS schools were closed on 1/28 (not a Feb. date), 2/8, 2/11, 2/27, and 2/28. All 5 of those closures were weather-related, including today's. If school lunches were the issue, as stated in the cancellation notice, it is not as simple as making sandwiches. Perhaps you don't realize how very many of our kids receive these meals. And if there is no power at buildings, there will certainly be many other complications besides lunches.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

In what way does the board have control over the weather?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Um... The school board was unelected, appointed by the WISD. The teachers union did not support ANY of these members of the school board. The actions of the school board are not the sentiment of the teachers union.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I agree that this article is well-written. However, I find it impossible to believe that it was news to any of the professionals deeply involved with the merger process what the terms of the two superintendents' contracts were. And very unbelievable that the two superintendents did not understand the language and implications of their own contracts. Also unbelievable that both superintendents are currently unable to find a way to correct that issue and at least do the right thing now by their staffs. If any of this was news to any of the professionals deeply involved in the merger process, then those folks were not doing a very thorough job researching the implications of the merger and being certain that it affected everyone in the same ways. That kind of process might have a lot to do with the current woes of the two districts.

greg, too

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

If so, that is another strike against them. I guess we are getting an excellent civics lesson on why we vote for most positions, not appoint.

tom swift jr.

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:27 a.m.

Well written, Danielle. Even if readers don't agree with the concept, this article certainly clarifies much of the logic used to reach this point and the intent of the decisions. This kind of transparency and communication on the part of the Board and Menzel had it been expressed prior to the meeting earlier this week might have greased the skids a bit as this has rolled out. Blind-siding the community, as they did at Monday's meeting, will never win approval.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Thanks, Tom!