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Posted on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run board hires firm for 'quick' superintendent search, pushes forward with planning

By Danielle Arndt

There was no rest for the weary in Ypsilanti this holiday break.

Though students enjoyed a reprieve from their studies, the Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidated school board continued to meet, plan and push forward with designing the new district.


The unified Ypsilanti-Willow Run school board.

It unanimously approved hiring the Michigan Leadership Institute (MLI) to conduct an expedited search for a superintendent of the consolidated district.

The cost of MLI’s services is not to exceed $12,000.

The school board heard presentations from both MLI and the Michigan Association of School Boards in December prior to making its hiring decision.

A subcommittee of the board — comprised of trustees Don Garrett, Celeste Hawkins and Anthony VanDerworp — was designated to lead the superintendent search.

It researched both firms and made a recommendation to the full board. The trustees said the winning factors were MLI’s emphasis on student and community input, its employees are former superintendents and it takes responsibility if the search selection doesn’t work out.

There was a negligible cost difference between the two firms.

MLI’s typical superintendent search lasts between 10 and 14 weeks. But Garrett said the group’s president and chief executive officer is aware of the consolidated district’s unique situation and is willing to work with the board on a shortened time frame.

“Our first meeting with them is next week, so we will have more details then about the length (of the search),” Garrett said. “We probably won’t shorten the posting time. … But we’re shooting for no later than February (to have someone selected).

“So it’s going to be quick, very rigorous and very pressing, like a lot of things we are having to do because of the amount of days we have left before the new district opens.”

The consolidated school board also authorized the Washtenaw Intermediate School District to conduct a program/curriculum audit of both Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools. The purpose of the audit is to tally what instructional content and delivery methodology already exists in both districts, so programmatic decisions for the new district can be made.

Additionally, the audit will provide guidance for when the board makes staffing and professional development decisions.

The board discussed presenting the results of the curriculum audit at a public meeting.

The superintendents of Ypsilanti, Willow Run and the WISD have been directed to establish formal and consistent communication protocols for updating the community, staff, students and parents on the decisions being made and the planning that is taking place for the new district.

The three leaders were given a timeline of mid-January to have these protocols developed for the board’s input and review.

The board also recently approved creating the following collaborative working groups that would include community and district representation:

  • District naming committee
  • Athletics committee
  • Early childhood task force
  • High quality teachers and teaching
  • Effective leadership
  • School culture and climate
  • College credit and credentials

The board approved creating the following board subcommittees:

  • Board policies
  • Labor relations
  • Facilities
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Budget and finance

The next regular meeting of the Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidated school board starts at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Willow Run High School, 235 Spencer Lane.

The board will handle Willow Run business first, followed by Ypsilanti business and then business for the new joint district.

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



Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

@YpsiReader and missypsi..... Your differing and very reasonable/legitimate perspectives are of course why folks choose to go with "new blood" in such situations. Folks who have led each district prior to a merger are almost always judged to be more invested in the district they came from, are believed to have old baggage/allegiances/a political "in-crowd" from relationships established prior to the merger, and are perceived by some segments of each community to have issues with their professional experience/perspectives that helped foster the current problems. Keeping folks on in some other capacity usually simply prolongs the split loyalties. It would seem that such an important experiment in merging districts ought to capture the imagination of some highly qualified and very experienced folks who would be up to the task of leading the new district in new directions that incorporate input from all stakeholders, consider the best interests of students and families as well as staff, and get everyone to buy into the absolute necessity of balancing the budget. It seems those should be qualities that the search looks for--folks who have the ability to make concrete for staff and families the many issues a consolidated district faces; folks who have the vision and leadership skills to help staff and families learn to do business in new ways; and folks who are more interested in kids, families, and staff than in their own salary and retirement benefits and who have a VERY long track record of demonstrating that in their previous employment. A viable superintendent candidate should be willing to have their own salary negotiations be part of the budget balancing process--history has shown time and again that it is impossible for a superintendent to have the needed talks with staff about lean salary and benefits packages when they have taken their own salary off the top.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

I hope that both superintendents are hired in some capacity. I would love to see one of them lead the new district. Both have worked hard throughout this entire initiative. They know the communities, the staff, and the students. They are able to identify problem areas and points of pride in both districts. These two fine people are not entirely to blame for where these two districts find themselves, yet they are taking on the role of leading us out of a very dark place. Hiring one, or both in some capacity, would cut down on the learning curve and make for a much smoother, more seamless transition. There is not much time and we owe it to our children to use this opportunity to do things right.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

Ummm.. Excuse me but have you been under a rock for the last five years? As an Ypsi parent, I've watched the current superintendent run the district into the ground. He clearly has neither the experience nor the vision to turn this district around. Community members, and especially YPSD parents were sold a bill of goods so that we would vote for consolidation. Some people in the community that I trusted VERY much convinced me to vote for it based on the fact that it would allow us to remake the district from the ground up. We cannot do this with the same old lack of vision at the helm. I don't care if there is a steep learning curve, how steep could it be? Anyhow, it seems our current superintendent hasn't mastered the job yet, so why keep someone who has shepherded the district into the state it was in last year. Many BAD decisions were made under his watch, and with the support of David Bates, who should have never been selected for the new board. I wish the new board well in this decision, but I urge them to go with someone who has the requisite vision to make this a true turnaround.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Parents? get ready for all new teachers and some old ones as well. There is going to be a complete restructuring in June. Who gets their job back? Your guess is as good as mine. Happened to the Willow Run, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor bus drivers when WISD took over. Can't wait to see parents go nuts on this one. Most teachers I know are buying out and leaving. They have had enough of both.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

I actually think that the new board has made a lot of good progress in a very short amount of time. I'll be interested in learning how they intend to select the people who will serve on these working groups and subcommittees.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 5:39 a.m.

I'm glad I am not on the Board. Reading the posts it seems that they can't do anything correct. A week or so ago they were being chastised for thinking about not hiring a firm and choosing between the two superintendents they have. Now, people are upset they are going with a firm and taking some time to do the search.

Dog Guy

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

For a 'quick' superintendent search, count to a hundred with your eyes closed, shout "ready or not here we come," and then look for one of the two you already have.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

I would bet we are going to end up with both in some capacity. Watch and see!

Michigan Reader

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 2:03 a.m.

@Dog Guy--Even quicker would be to count to one hundred in increments of ten; the sooner the new superintendent gets started on his homework, the better.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:28 a.m.

Exactly right. IS this how they would spend their own money??? Easy come, Easy go, As long as it's the public's dough.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

About $250K should cover the cost of a quality superintendent with incredible vision and the ability to balance a budget..................


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Sounds like AAPS BOE. Want ours? She is not doing a great job either.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

Well, considering parents don't know which teachers or schools are going to be kept....or the name of said combined school district for that manner....let's focus quickly on hiring another overpaid administrative official first...


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Same thing happened when they privatized the bus drivers. They still did not have enough drivers. Going to happen in September. Good luck with that one. Glad I am not a teacher. Although I would be buying out right about now.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

I understand why they are hiring the superintendent first as that person should be the leader of the rest of the hiring and deciding for the new district. The puzzling part is how slow this is moving. That new person, if hired today, has less than six months to build a new district out of the scraps of two failed ones. The hiring of the headhunter should have been the first order of business back in December and they should already be looking at candidates by now. The lack of haste is troubling.