Ypsilanti-Willow Run board expected to decide on superintendent search Thursday
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The Board of Education for the unified Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district weighed the pros and cons of hiring a superintendent search organization in a lengthy three-part meeting Monday night.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Per state statute, the new district does not take effect until July 1, 2013. Until that date, the Board of Education must meet separately to handle the business of each individual district, as well as the unified district.
The board heard a presentation from the Michigan Leadership Institute during the Willow Run portion of Monday’s meeting.
School board members are expected to decide Thursday between hiring the MLI or the Michigan Association of School Boards to conduct a broad-scale superintendent search. Or, three school board members remained in favor Monday of deciding between the current superintendents, Laura Lisiscki and Dedrick Martin.
Board Secretary Greg Myers said he did not want to take that option off the table.
“I’m not sure what we are searching for,” said Trustee Daniel Raglin of conducting a search. “ Bringing in someone new doesn’t impress me at all, if we have the talent here why hire new just to have new?”
Raglin added he struggles with spending money the new district doesn’t have or need to spend. Both the MASB and the MLI quoted the board about $10,000 for its services.
Treasurer Anthony VanDerworp said his preference was leaning toward the MLI.
The Michigan Leadership Institute is comprised of former school superintendents. VanDerworp highlighted that first-hand experience as an advantage over the MASB. He also liked how the MLI has a guarantee if at the end of the process, the board does not feel it has found a suitable candidate or can’t agree, the MLI will start the process again for only the re-posting costs.
President David Bates said, during the summer planning process prior to the merger vote, school leaders promised the community to rebuild the district from the ground up. In order to retain credibility and the support of residents, Bates feels the only way board members can justify they have selected the best person for the job is to conduct a search, he said.
However, Vice President Don Garrett said he is concerned about the opposite occurring — if the board does not select one of the existing superintendents, trust may be lost.
“I’m OK with doing a search because I think the best two will still come out. I just don’t want to risk the possibility of losing all of the hard work we’ve done with the community,” he said.
Bates recommended establishing a superintendent ad-hoc committee of three board members to oversee the superintendent search process regardless of what decision is made Thursday. The board appointed Garrett, VanDerWorp and Trustee Celeste Hawkins to serve on that committee.
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ypsilanti Administration Building, 1885 Packard Road, for a work session to brainstorm and discuss various aspects of starting up the new district.
The board has committed to meeting for regular board meetings on the first and third Monday of each month until July 1 and the second and fourth Thursday of each month for visioning and planning work sessions.
Before the board heard the MLI’s presentation, new Ypsilanti teachers union president Krista Boyer introduced herself and spoke out about the superintendent hiring process.
“While I mean no disrespect to the current administration, and while we understand time is of the essence, we as the YEA implore you to create a survey and to get input from the public and from the staff in both Willow Run and Ypsilanti before you make any decisions on who will be the leader of our new district.”
Boyer assumed the leadership role of the Ypsilanti Education Association Monday following the resignation of former president Karen Siegel.
“While many people are congratulating me, I find myself wondering what I’ve gotten myself into,” Boyer said. “Our district currently is not in a good place. Our teachers are feeling under appreciated demoralized and beat up.”
Siegel accepted a position with Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, citing job uncertainty in the unified district as one of her primary reasons for leaving.
As she left, Siegel urged school officials to start addressing staff concerns about teacher assignments, potential layoffs, wages and benefits as soon as possible. At Monday’s meeting, Boyer reiterated those concerns.
“Answers to these questions must come soon,” Boyer said. “For every ‘I don’t know’ somebody hears, we lose another staff member, another colleague, another student to another district.
“We need to know now, otherwise there is not going to be anyone left to show the new district to.”
Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel said the WISD, in its partnership role, plans to recommend that board hire a project manager to oversee various aspects of the new district’s implementation.
The hiring of a project manager hinges somewhat on the unified district’s grant application for consolidating services through the state being approved. Grants recipients are not expected to be notified until the end of January, Menzel said. The new Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidated district applied for about $6.5 million of the $10 million available.