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Posted on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run board expected to decide on superintendent search Thursday

By Danielle Arndt

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.


Unified district board President David Bates, left, of Ypsilanti, and Vice President Don Garrett, of Willow Run, fall on opposite sides of the superintendent search issue. The board is expected to decide on a process for hiring the new district's leader Thursday. file photo

The trustees gathered at Ypsilanti High School at 6:30 p.m. and first met and adjourned as the Ypsilanti school board, then as Willow Run and finally as the unified district.

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.

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


Now Found

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

In this search for a superintendent for the combined Willow Run/YPSD districts, perhaps broad, generalized comments should be avoided (please take note, "Cash"). Stating that the YPSD or the Willow Run districts have failed to educate their students over the years is simply not true. For example, many members of the Ypsilanti High School's graduating class of 2012 were accepted at and now attend Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Bowling Green State, the University of Toledo, Eastern Michigan University, etc. They did very well on their ACT tests and without a doubt demonstrate that a student who WANTS to learn at YHS CAN learn at YHS. However, the desire to learn has to come from the child. The same banquet is served to all students, but it is up to each individual child to consume the educational nutrition and grow academically. THEY must do the hard work! Many have. Many will continue to do so in the future, regardless of who is at the helm of the ship. That person chosen is not in the classroom educating the kids who go on to do greater things in life (teachers educate the kids, by the way; and they educate those who want to learn and those who do not want to learn). Just some food for thought.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Both districts have spent money like water and failed to provide a quality education for many of the students they are supposed to serve. It's time to stop spending and start looking for cost savings. This is a good start. Also gambling on the unknown is recipe for disaster. WR taxpayers have suffered enough with hiring incompetents. We currently have 2 qualified candidates. Hire one of them. And move on.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

Bob and YpsiLivin are right. First and foremost, they should talk to the parents who left the district to find out why they left and to not repeat past mistakes. And YpsiLiving is right. There are a lot of retreads on the new board and hiring another to be superintendent would reek of repeating past mistakes. I am shocked that there is a firm that will not do this for under 10k. It would seem that there have to be more academic headhunters with a better pricepoint, but also with high quality, out there.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

Neither school district got to its current state by having the best, most competent administrators on board. There's no real reason to believe that suddenly these two districts have gotten the hang of hiring qualified superintendents. Given the high number of retreads on the reconstituted school board, I'd be happier if we all went back to Square One and at least looked for a new superintendent. During a major restructuring, dispassionate leadership is a necessity.

Basic Bob

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

Compared to neighboring districts, they have plenty of experience with cuts. If they insist on a survey, it should go to parents who have chosen charter schools. These are the people whose trust must be earned back.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

My only concern is that either of the current superintendents would be unable or unwilling to take an axe to administrative costs. It's difficult for decent people to fire long term employees/colleagues/friends even if it has to be done.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

ok, lets start for real here. Doing "A Search" has meant using a "Search Firm" for both of these districts. that is a fee usually 30% of first year's compensation $30,000+ really? thats how you want to spend 30,000? Not on security? Not on Curriculum? Not on Staff? You want to give it to a search firm to find talent you already have? in the name of "new blood". baloney!


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

I see I miss the 10K fee for doing 'the search'...and to that I say great a discounted fee search firm - you do get what you pay for why bother - its still baloney!


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

The survey should include ALL residents of both communities, not just those who happen to work in the school district or who happen to have school age children. Everyone who pays taxes to support the schools should have a voice.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

I like the survey approach. It's not binding, but shouldn't the new BOE care about what people think? I sure hope so.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Come on Atlantis school board members, git r done and get my mortgage above water


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

hire Corey Gildersleeve.if he can't solve the problem any other way he'll fight whoever is involved.