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Posted on Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti teacher's union president takes new job, urges unified district to start addressing staff questions

By Danielle Arndt


The president's position of the Ypsilanti Education Association will change hands Monday as job uncertainly in the new consolidated school district forces the current president to move on. file photo

The Ypsilanti Education Association will fall under new leadership Monday, as former union president Karen Siegel leaves to take an administrative position with Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.

Siegel, an Ann Arbor resident, said it will be hard to leave Ypsilanti Public Schools and she will remain committed to seeing the new unified district succeed. Siegel said she is still a strong proponent of the merger between Ypsilanti and Willow Run.

“But I had to go where I knew I would have a job,” she said.

Siegel, currently a language arts teacher at the high school, became president of the YEA this fall, when former union president Kelly Powers was named principal at Erickson Elementary School.

The move to Plymouth-Canton and to the administrative position of visual and performing arts coordinator is a great opportunity for Siegel, she said.

Krista Boyer, a kindergarten teacher at Perry Child Development Center, will take over as YEA president on Monday.

As she leaves the district, Siegel had some urgent words of advice for the new school board. Since the merger passed Nov. 6 and the new joint school board was selected Nov. 19, Siegel has expressed concern for the teachers and staff at YPS, and has encouraged the new board to give some direction to teachers as soon as possible about what they could expect with regards to their jobs.

Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel, who has been integral in facilitating the merger between the two districts, previously said faculty and staff would be required to reapply for their positions and contracts will need to be renegotiated. There also likely will be a reduction of staff, Menzel has said.

Siegel said the board needs to give some clarification or confirmation of this information to both district’s staff. The new board has yet to address staffing assignments and it is concerning for teachers who need to make plans for their families, she said.

A process for selecting a superintendent for the consolidated district has been the appointed board’s first priority. The board began a discussion at its first regular meeting Dec. 3 about whether to hire an organization to conduct a nationwide search for a superintendent, or to select from one of the existing superintendents, either Ypsilanti’s Dedrick Martin or Willow Run’s Laura Lisiscki.

Siegel said this is a historic moment for the greater Ypsilanti community as a whole and the board needs to do due diligence and conduct a search.

“I understand (Willow Run) had some recent history where they had an outside superintendent come in and it was a very stressful time for them,” Siegel said. “And we do have two people who are viable candidates here now. But there is a good chance there are others even within this area who are just as committed to Ypsilanti and Willow Run and deserve a chance to apply, too.”

She said she knows a decision on a superintendent must be made quickly, “but if there is anything for the board not to mess up it should be that position.”

Siegel also said it would be a “slap in the face” if the teachers have to reapply for their jobs, but one of the superintendents is simply ushered in.

New board Vice President Don Garrett expressed some concerns about a large-scale search at the Dec. 3 meeting. He said the current superintendents have the community’s trust and have put their personal interests aside to work toward the merger. He worries about bringing in someone new that could hurt that trust and the mission, he said.

In an interview Friday, Garrett said he does want to do a search to be fair to everyone in both districts — both the superintendents and the other faculty and staff.

“I still strongly feel it should be between the two that we have, but I do also strongly agree that we owe it to the community to make sure we are finding the best fit and everybody is getting a fair shake,” he said.

The next Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education meeting is set for Monday and will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Ypsilanti High School.

At the Dec. 3 meeting, the board heard a presentation about the superintendent search services that the Michigan Association of School Boards offers.

Richard Dunham, director of superintendent searches for the MASB, told board members Dec. 3 if they do have a strong internal candidate, whom the community is behind, they should not waste time or money doing a search.

This Monday, Garrett said the board will hear from the Michigan Leadership Institute, the other top organization for superintendent search in the state.

It is not clear when the board will make a decision on whether or not to hire a search firm. The cost of doing so is expected to be around $10,000.

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



Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

Gee, if both existing superintendents, Ypsilanti's Dedrick Martin or Willow Run's Laura Lisiscki are so great why not keep both at half the pay and see if they really want to work together for the new district and the students.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

Please, please, don't make the mistake WISD did in choosing our new merged board, picking some of the very same people (David Bates, I am name-checking you) who ran the district into the ground with their limited imaginations and penny-wise and pound foolish decisions. Bates has been a drag on any substantive change in the district and has consistently supported the poor decisions of YPSD's superintendent, Dedrick Martin, who, while ushering YPSD into historic deficits and plummeting enrollments, somehow continued to receive "high marks" for his performance. Can we please get someone in here who actually has the imagination and the drive to transform the new district? I am seriously on the verge of pulling my children out of these schools, and I have been one of YPSD's most ardent boosters. Show me that you are SERIOUS, Scott Menzel, about making this district into a groundbreaking, leader in transformational education. So far the WISD's decisions have been as shortsighted and just plain dumb as were the decisions of YPSD. I believed you Scott Menzel, when you said this was a chance to start with a clean slate. Now I see that your "clean slate" meant firing all the teachers and forcing them to re-apply under much worse conditions, while keeping the same non-visionary, and frankly, inept, leadership in place.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Karen Siegel is a gem and Plymouth-Canton is lucky to have gotten her. Smart, too. Ypsi schools have other wonderful teachers who will be recruited away if the new Board doesn't act fast to keep them.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 4:40 a.m.

The district failed, as a result so did Siegel.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.

This merger is begining to sound like it is doomed to fail by design at this point. Apparently the "experts" aren't moving on an efficient transition either because they don't want to, they don't possess the expertise, or they're incompetent. Let's get to it....or get out of it, as Siegel did. You've got children to educate, don't screw it up.

Gordon Dooley

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

I certainly do hope they act fast. There is a lot of conflicting information in the community in regards to what's going to happen. As a gradate and parent of students in the Willow Run Middle and High School, I also hope a strong unifying message is conveyed to the students whom this affects just as much if not more than faculty and staff. I have a great deal of respect for our leadership, particularly that of Vice President of the board Don Garrett that these concerns will be addressed at the appropriate time.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Ditto on the above comment. Karen, you'll be missed, but we each must do what we must do. Best wishes on your new job. As for the new superintendent, Karen's comments run deep. Don't blow the merger at the start with a lengthy process. any new person will have to earn credibility with the board, the staff and both communities. This requires VALUABLE time. Give your local choice one-two years and see what they've got. Don't prolong the uncertainty and anxieties by overly tweaking this process. You might even like what the local leader might have!

tom swift jr.

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

"....Scott Menzel, who has been integral in facilitating the merger between the two districts, previously said faculty and staff would be required to reapply for their positions ..." What an insult to the dedicated teachers of both of these districts. If, as stated in the article, both of the superintendents have "...have the community's trust.....", we can only assume that part of this trust is that they have chosen or maintained a quality staff, why would they want to fire those staff members that know and love these kids at this critical juncture? This consolidation has brought back, for the most part, Board Members who came from the failing districts, this discussion is leading towards bringing back a Superintendent from a failing district, yet the staff will be fired and forced to reapply. Evidently it was the teachers, all along, that resulted in these huge deficits, not the people who had control of the purse strings... This is all rather confusing... Or not...

tom swift jr.

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

It appears you've missed my point....

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

"yet the staff will be fired and forced to reapply" This is a new district. No one said that teachers from the old districts will not be hired back. However, if they have too many teachers in a particular specialty, they will need applications in order to choose the best one to keep. Or possibly reassign a teacher to another position that they are also qualified for. In all likelihood, a high school will be closed. If this is done properly, administration and building overhead will take the biggest hit. For starters, at least one superintendent is losing a job.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Many thanks to Karen Siegel for her devotion to our students over the years. We will miss her positive attitude and dedication. Best wishes in her new position.