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Posted on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run to weigh superintendent search options

By Danielle Arndt

The merger was approved and a seven-member school board was appointed.

Now, officials with the soon-to-be consolidated district will focus on the next major task: selecting a superintendent to direct the new school system.


The newly appointed school board for the Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidated school district, from left: Anthony VanDerworp, Daniel Raglin, Gregory Myers, Maria Sheler-Edwards, Don Garrett and David Bates. Not pictured is Celeste Hawkins.

File photo

The newly established Board of Education operating both Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools until the districts merge in July met Monday night to take care of business for each district individually.

The Willow Run meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. with Ypsilanti following at 7:15 p.m. During the Ypsilanti meeting, the board heard a presentation from the Michigan Association of School Boards about the services it offers in the area of superintendent searches.

Willow Run-Ypsilanti board president David Bates said the board also is attempting to schedule a presentation with the Michigan Leadership Institute, which is a privately held consulting firm specializing in assisting schools and other public institutions.

Bates said the MASB and the MLI are the two top organizations for superintendent searches in the state. He recommended at the last meeting that the board invite them both to an upcoming meeting to share a little about their search processes.

There is no timeline yet for selecting a superintendent.

“But I know the board has expressed they are very anxious to move forward with this and to develop a plan quickly,” Bates said. “We are all feeling a sense of urgency around that.”

He said the new unified school board essentially has three options for tackling the superintendent’s position: 1) hire the MASB to conduct a search; 2) hire the MLI to conduct a search; or, 3) decide it already has two good internal candidates and work on selecting a superintendent from one of the two, with the guidance of the district’s attorney.

The two internal candidates are current Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin and Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki. Both Martin and Lisiscki told Monday they intend to vie for the position of superintendent in the new unified school system.

“I want to stay for as long as I can,” Lisiscki said. “I definitely want to see this through. I’ve said all the way along this is about the kids and even though we’re in uncharted waters, it’s exciting.”

Martin echoed the Willow Run leader’s comments. He said when they were working together to bring about the consolidation, both knew in the back of their minds the day would come where there potentially would be just one of them standing. But he said neither made it an issue; they simply focused on the task ahead.

“There’s a lot to be nervous about,” Martin said of the months ahead, and of the possibility of leading an entirely new district. “But there’s a lot to be excited about as well. … I don’t know of anyone out there who’d be able to say they had this type of experience.”

Lisisicki said she has not thought about what she would do if she is not named superintendent of the new district. Martin said he currently is exploring potential “Plan B” options to ensure he is able to support his family.

The MASB conducted the superintendent search in 2009 that brought Martin to the Ypsilanti Public Schools.

Richard Dunham, director of superintendent search services for the MASB, delivered Monday’s presentation. He said the typical MASB search lasts between 11 and 13 weeks.

The first few weeks generally are spent developing a composite profile of what the board and the community are looking for in a superintendent candidate. Dunham said the MASB’s emphasis on public forums and community input is what sets the MASB apart from other search organizations.

Recently, in helping the Grand Rapids Public Schools District hire a new superintendent, the MASB conducted 29 separate community input sessions.

Dunham said for the community input surveys, the MASB works with the district’s school board to develop the questions.

“We don’t use canned survey questions,” he said.

Weeks four through 10 of the search process are spent fielding applications, helping the school board determine what type of interview process it would like to use, conducting reference and background checks and setting up district visits after the interviews have been completed.

Dunham said the MASB is not involved in the decision-making or in the salary and benefit negotiations.

After the search is complete and a superintendent has been chosen, the MASB typically will host a goal-setting workshop for the board and the new district leader to establish some measurable goals for the next school year, Dunham said. It also gives guidance on superintendent evaluations and can work with the board to establish how communication between board members and the superintendent should be moving forward.

Bates asked about the timeframe, stressing the sense of urgency to have a new leader and clear direction for the consolidated district as soon as possible. Dunham said the MASB would work with the district and adjust the timeline to whatever the board wanted it to be.

“I would just caution you with the newness not to sacrifice quality with expediency,” he said.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run Vice President Don Garrett asked how often the MASB had conducted searches with internal candidates and how the process might differ if a district has one or two strong internal candidates.

Dunham said if hired, he would work for the board. So if the board wanted to give a favored status to one or both of the current superintendents, the MASB would honor that.

“Part of what I would normally say to a board is if you have a strong internal candidate, don’t waste your time and money doing a search,” he said, adding however, the internal candidate would need to have the support of the board, the community and the staff.

“They have to have all three. If one is missing, I recommend doing a search.”

Dunham also said the unified school district is conducting its search at the ideal time, as most superintendents typically decide if they are retiring or leaving in January. He said no superintendent pool is very deep. The typical national superintendent posting yields between 18 and 25 applicants, he said.

The MASB on average charges about $7,300 for superintendent search services, Dunham said. He added the unified district search, if the school board approves utilizing the MASB, would cost a little more due to the size of the new district. The MASB uses enrollment to determine the total cost.

Bates said he expects the board will discuss its options, the MASB's presentation and next steps at its retreat on Saturday, and again at the Dec. 17 board meeting. He said he is not sure how soon MLI will be able to meet with school trustees.

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


Bridgit Johnson

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

@ Ypsilivin: If you think D Martin came unqualified you should research L Lisisicki! Watch Out! She got her position from having back room, sneaky conversations with former board president Sherry Washington in an effort to let Sherry dictate her agenda. See how that worked out? Washington is gone leaving the district to it's demise under a very incompetent, untrustworthy and backstabbing dictator. The new district would be a disaster under her rule. So hoping President Bates is wise behind the scenes.

LaWanda Garrett

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

Here's a question for ALL of the nay Sayers and complainers; how many of you have children who currently are students in these districts? As a parent of a WR student, the last thing I want to see is an outsider, who is not from this community, nor knows anything about it except what they heard/read, to come in with their own agenda & only wanting to do what they think is best, not what the community members want. I don't know Mr. Martin but I do know Ms. Lisiscki & I know that she GENUINELY cares about what is best for our kids. So much so that she was willing to & did put herself & her livelihood on the line in the interest of our kids. That is who I want to head this new district. All those community members who wanted an all new BOE, obviously weren't thinking straight. I don't want a bunch of inexperienced people who don't have a clue how to represent a district leading a new school district. At least there are a few people who actually KNOW what they are doing. Also, let us not forget, that none of those people created the problems that WR & YPSI have, they inherited them. Lets get rid of the politics & do what is truly going to benefit our kids! #OPTIMISTIC


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

@Cash... Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! If our Administrators had even a small amount of fiscal responsibility, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. We are being told by building principals that we have to buy our own paper and pencils to use in the classroom because there is no budget anymore. It's like some deep-dark secret we aren't supposed to reveal for fear of punishment on our evaluations. If we personally can't afford it, the students in our class won't have supplies, or printed homework, or even newsletters home to parents. And these idiots are considering paying MORE money to find someone else to squander the little bit of money that's left? Someone needs to see all the wonderful supplies the Superintendent has. I wonder if he has copy paper and pencils or ink for his printer!

Basic Bob

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:21 a.m.

They couldn't elect a board before the district was approved by voters. The entire board will be up for election in 2014. Maybe that's not soon enough, but state law was changed to prevent the kind of inbreeding that usually occurred when school board elections were scheduled to maximize the grip the System had on the board. If we had an election in February 2013, would you expect the board to look any different? I don't.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

Sad but true. If we knew it was just going to be a reboot of the old ways, I think more people would have voted against the merger. We should have recognized the more people claim transparency and community involvement, they usual being the opposite when elected.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.

@beardown... You have an excellent point. Watching from the inside of this disaster for so long, I guess I have to say that I believe the new board is really made up of hand picked people that will continue the bologna. The voting public was never able to challenge any of the choices in a realistic way. Sure, voters could have gone to meetings and speak their minds- but none could actually vote on the new board trustees. Taxation without representation rings a bell here. If voters had a real voice and chance to challenge the new trustees, the public would find out about a lot of the inside relationships these people have with current administrators in both districts. I believe that paying money for a search would be just for show, and a waste of money. They already know what they want and who will be hired. We WILL end up with the same captains sailing an even bigger sinking ship. Transparency is non-existent.... especially when they claim it is.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

So, that means you want to keep the same administrators that took away your pencils and paper? Or would you be willing to pay a little more to find someone who won't?

Martin Church

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Stop behaving like a bunch of donkeys and start by using both current office holders in their respective districts to work together and let the better vision of consolidation take the helm. stop wasting time trying to be Detroit and become something new. Look internal and use the resources we have. Tell these two search firms thanks but no thanks, Ypsilanti area Schools will do it our selves. Same for the WISD. Tell them to leave and let our school board do it's job We the voters need canidates now ready to take control.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Dedrick Martin arrived as an unqualified candidate; he lacked the PhD that was a minimum qualification to run the district. As a result, We the People ended up paying for Mr. Martin to go back to school and become qualified to hold his position in the district. If unqualified candidates are the best that the MASB can turn up, then I think we're better off looking elsewhere, but it's a mistake to assume that either current superintendent is up to the task that lies ahead. Spend the money for the search, but INSIST on qualified candidates.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

I am piqued by the people who are calling for the board to hire a retread on a short term contract when such a move would be detrimental to the public opinion of the district. Public opinion of the parents who might move their children out of district if they see that the new district is just Ypsi or WR 2.0. And we've all read comments about people who are already annoyed about the new board being composed of old board members, what do you think will be said and done when they keep and old superintendent? They have a chance here to hire someone to build the new district into one that can compete to keep its students in the district. Forget this "destination district" rubbish, they aren't even a destination for kids in their own district. So why would they then hire someone who was at the helm when, according the board selection committee, millions of dollars in tax revenue followed thousands of kids out of the district? They would simply be starting off the new district by repeating the mistakes of the old one. I have no issues with Martin or Lisiscki, they seem like nice, competent people, but if they children were bailing before under their leadership, why would they not now?

Basic Bob

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

Perhaps the problem was the minimum qualification. He measured up well against the other candidates who may or may not have possessed the required education. They could have done far worse by hiring someone like Dr. Hope-Jackson or Dr. Laconda Hicks who have education but no honor. In addition, the district probably paid substantially less in salary for the less-qualified candidate, just as they would with an entry-level teacher. Keep in mind that Mr. Allen ran AAPS quite well for nearly a year from the time Dr. Roberts stopped showing up until Dr. Green started making regular appearances. So now Dr. Martin is qualified, as is Dr. Lisiscki, should the board insist that it takes a Ph.D. to run a school district. He should be considered as a candidate unless the board knows something that is not public.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Well, I suppose that's one way to look at it, but when the Board specifically instructs the search firm to present qualified candidates, and identifies one of the minimal qualifications for the position as a PhD, the search firm should really present only those candidates that possess the required qualifications, and the Board should only consider those candidates who actually meet the minimum standards for employment in the superintendent position. As it stands, the Board's choice of Dedrick Martin committed the taxpayers to spending tens of thousands of dollars on top of his salary to "remediate" him to meet the minimum standards for the position. (Apparently, school district superintendents don't make enough money to pay for graduate tuition.) Had the Board chosen a qualified candidate in the first place, the taxpayer would not have had to spend one thin dime to get to Square One.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Well, the employer invested in an employee and he stayed with the district. That's a problem????? Sounds like a good idea to me. So if we already invested in his doctorate. No point in throwing him out. Offer him a short term contract with out clauses on each side. Fair enough. Save our money for the true needs of the district.....books, teachers, etc. EDUCATION!!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Remember these great articles on this subject? Time to revisit the issue.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

From an Ed Vielmetti column (I sure miss that guy) The risk of a failed search: Willow Run Community Schools In February 2007, the Willow Run Community Schools hired the search firm MASB to help them look for a new superintendent. MASB helped them pick Doris Hope-Jackson, and when she was hired the Northwest Indiana Times reported on the hiring, giving Hope-Jackson's past history of previous job troubles: "In 2003, the District 149 School Board placed Hope-Jackson on remediation after just about seven months on the job following her hiring in July 2002. The board's action led to Hope-Jackson filing a federal lawsuit that was eventually dropped after the district agreed to a settlement." (Added by me: her settlement involved a BMW) Searches for new leadership that only involve the public and the press after the decision has been nearly finalized run the risk of not giving an independent body enough time to do due diligence on the candidate's previous work history. Hope-Jackson was fired in September 2010, and lawsuits are pending. Really why go to the MASB trough again? You got cheated last time.

Dog Guy

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

If Dedrick Martin isn't available, AAPS could loan the new board Patricia Green on her weekly extra day off.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

As a taxpayer and voter in the district I'd prefer fiscal responsibility and picking one of the already KNOWN candidates and giving them a short-term contract. If the results aren't good, don't renew the contract. Now, where money should be spent is to have a lawyer draw that contract to allow the new district a 60 day opt out clause.....without penalty on either side. If neither of the candidates accept those terms....then go outside. But only then. Ponder this: How did that outside search work when they hired Doris Hope-Jackson?


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Voters clearly want a fresh start and new leadership. Neither superintendent has the political capital, the objectivity or the credibility to assume leadership of the new district. The new school board will face a sizable backlash if one of their first and most important decision is to return to the status quo.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

Basic Bob, to a lot of people both are perceived as the ones who finished off the sinking of the ship. This is why the people voted to start a NEW school district, with a NEW board, NEW administrators, and most cases, NEW teachers. Instead, we have three old board members (while turning down two of the three who were voted in this past November) and now they want to hire one of the old superintendents? If they just wanted the status quo, they should have left the districts alone to fend for themselves. And were only two members there? Or were the rest just silent on an issue that they all stated was the most important first step in the process?

Basic Bob

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

I don't think either superintendent is perceived as the person who ran them into the ground, or is incapable of leading them through the transition. An outside search won't find two better qualified candidates.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

This consolidated district is not in position to be spending more money. Pick option 3....and chose from one of the two you already have on board. This kind of foolishness is what I feared when I was asked to vote for this consolidation....more of the same! Now is the time to show fiscal responsibility. Don't keep making the same mistakes that the two separate school boards made.....that is, spending money needlessly. The need now is to prove to the taxpayers/voters that you deserved the vote to consolidate.....that you will NOT waste sparse resources on "searches" and will pick from your two internal seasoned candidates.