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Posted on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Saline becomes 4th Washtenaw County school district to switch to 6-year terms

By Danielle Arndt

Saline Area Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 in favor of switching to six-year board terms Tuesday, after spirited discussion.

The vote divided the board down a line of experience, with newly elected members David Zimmer and David Holden opposing the motion.

David Holden Hi-Res Print Use-3.jpg

David Holden

Zimmer and Holden took office in January after winning the November election. Both expressed a concern about bringing the term length topic forward as an action item on Tuesday’s agenda without more of a concerted effort to engage the public.

Holden made a motion at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting to move the resolution from an action item to a discussion item. The motion was seconded but after the majority of board members said they were comfortable proceeding as planned, Holden withdrew his motion.

He summarized the decision before the board as a vote of “continuity” vs. “accountability,” “maintaining the status quo” vs. “upholding the right of the voting public.”

Zimmer expanded on Holden’s position, stating, with six-year board terms, members are more likely to resign halfway through and the public would have no say in who is appointed to carry out the remainder of the term.

Zimmer presented four guiding principles for his stance on the term length issue at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. They were: responsiveness, accountability, balance and engagement. He said as the board is faced with difficult budgetary decisions in the coming months, he promises to weigh each of those principles prior to casting his vote.

A six-year term changes the board’s cycle from 2-2-2-1 to 2-3-2, with two trustees up for re-election one year, followed by three the next year and two the final year.

If the board had voted to continue with a four-year term, its election cycle would have switched to 4-3, due to a new school board election law passed by the Michigan Legislature in late 2011.


Lisa Slawson

Vice President Chuck Lesch is in favor of the continuity the new term length creates.

“As the second longest serving person on the board currently, I was … somewhat naive and thought, ‘How hard can it be? It’s the school board,’” he said. “But it’s an incredibly complex position we serve in. I’m just about to the point where I understand everything. My thought is continuity is something we need on the board, especially in the trying times we are in right now.”

President Lisa Slawson said she hates how politics have started to become an issue for the board.

“Once we let this become a partisan board … I would think that would be a very bad idea. I think that is … going down a very slippery slope,” she said.

A few members of the audience vigorously applauded Slawson's statements.

Dawn Ducca, a parent, spoke about the board’s “bickering back and forth” during the public comment period at the end of the meeting.

“I want to encourage everybody to remember why we are here. It is for the kids,” she said. “(The bickering) is not good for the district. It's not good for the board. And who is stuck in the middle? Our kids. So please, let’s get back to what we’re here for.”

Saline is now the fourth district in Washtenaw County to approve six-year terms. Lincoln, Milan and Chelsea previously voted in favor of the switch. Manchester and Ann Arbor will remain at four-year terms.

Under the new six-year term, Slawson and Lesch will be up for re-election in 2018 rather than 2016. Trustees Amy Cattell and Craig Hoeft will have their terms extended by one year and be up for re-election in 2014 (rather than 2013).

The state no longer permits school boards to have elections during in odd-numbered years.

Zimmer and Holden, both of whom would have been up for re-election in 2015, will be up for re-election in 2016.

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


Lac Court Orilles

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

PROBLEM: The tea party has stuck its nose onto this board, and instead of helping solve the problems, they are simply making them worse. All HOLDEN AND ZIMMER do is promote misinformation. There's no one to blame but the voters themselves for bringing tea baggers Holden & Zimmer onto the Saline School Board. Holden and Zimmer simply posture for political reasons and have lost sight of the reason why they are there in the first place which is to serve our children. SOLUTION: Be careful who you vote for next time.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

That's right keep the Clowns there longer. Fools and Clowns acting like they are doing something.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 4:42 a.m.

Sorry to disagree with you all, but the problem is not Ms. Slawson, the problems on this board are Holden and Zimmer. The tea party has stuck its nose onto this board, and instead of helping solve the problems, they are simply making them worse. Were any of you at the meeting last night? If you had been, you would have heard her say that this was in fact a third reading of this policy. Holden and Zimmer simply posture for political reasons, and good for Slawson and the rest of the board for calling them out. All they do is promote misinformation. From what I could tell from being present at that meeting, the bullies are Holden and Zimmer. And by the way snoopdog, Slawson and Lesch are the only ones who didn't get additional years on the board. Get your facts straight.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

Now that Slawson has egg all over her face for chastizing Zimmer over his reimbursements for required MASB classes, which were efficient and not excessive (see the Patch article from the other day), I think it is quite apparent that Slawson's pattern of bullying simply continues. Turns out, she was reimbursed more than Zimmer for MASB classes this fiscal year. Furthermore, his "rate" of spending, which she is clinging to as she backpedals, is a non-issue as it is not much greater than another board member's whom Slawson didn't even mention (Carter). Besides, what's your problem with the Tea Party? They're just law-abiding citizens concerned about rampant government waste. They're not running around disrupting speeches by screaming "mic check!" or pouring glitter on people like leftists are these days. Or defecating on cop cars, or pouring human sewage into bank foyers. Also, why mention the Tea Party. I'm not aware that Holden or Zimmer are on record as Tea Partiers.


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

Why did Lisa demand that this be an action item rather than a discussion item so the change could be fully vetted/discussed/debated with enough time ? Dah, so she could ramrod it through and get herself another two years on the board before she has to run again. Lisa, you hate the way "politics have started to become an issue for the board " ? What do you mean by that ? So you are saying anyone that disagrees with you is playing politics. That is rather scary Lisa, you want to be the Sheriff of the board and the only one carrying a gun ? You are part of the problem Lisa, you, along with the other long termers on the board ( and previous board members the past 20 years) have run this school district into near term bancrupcy and you call to task folks that want to get the "house in order" for playing politics ? Sorry , they are not playing politics, playing is for little kids. This is grown up work here, stay on task ! Good Day

Paul Hynek

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 12:12 a.m.

snoopdog..her term ends 2012, this did not change anything. It can be an action item...board policy 1550...heavy emphasis on the second sentence: The Board shall consider adoption and/or amendments to bylaws, policies, rules, and regulations of the Board upon recommendation of the Board Policy Committee after two readings. However, the bylaws, policies, rules, and regulations of the Board may be amended at any regular, special, or adjourned meeting of the Board by a majority vote of the members elected to, appointed, and serving on the Board. From my understanding, this was discussed at the policy committee, that was reading number 1.


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

In the article on this issue in Patch (, Lisa Slawson admits that it was she who put this issue on the agenda as an action item before it had even been a discussion item. David Holden motioned for it to be changed to a discussion item but was over-ruled by the majority. I salute him for making this motion, and Zimmer for supporting it through his argument. I find it very interesting the Slawson did this, since her term (her second) is the first one set to expire and she is the longest serving member. Could this have influenced her decision not to allow for debate among her peers and an opportunity for more extensive input from the community? Now, she can run for a six-year term this fall. Apparently, she is very fond of "continuity."


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Also, I couldn't disagree more fully with Dawn Ducca: I think a careful discussion of this issue, complete with disagreement and counter-arguments would have been very beneficial to the district. I believe that that process is always beneficial. Otherwise, why wouldn't tyranny or oligarchy be the best forms of government? No disagreement, no bickering, just unanimous decisions as far as the eye can see. Sorry, the west has known better than that since the days of Pericles. This issue should have been vetted better and aired to the public before it came to a vote. I salute Holden and Zimmer for trying to make that happen. The majority on the board just diminished the voters' power to hold them accountable, and when they did, the increase of their own power was proportional to the decrease in the voters'. That incenses me.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

Careful discussion IS good, but that was NOT careful discussion! That as craziness. I think there are more important things to discuss like, contract negotiations, how we are going to keep this district afloat next year deserves more than this. I think the way ALL of it was handled was misguided. And it appeared from what Trustee Hoeft said that this wasn't a new item last night, this HAD been brought up multiple times before Zimmer and Holden got on the board. Disagreements are good for the process, but I think there is a way to handle yourself. I don't want to see our board become the laughing stock of Washtenaw County.


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

The four year term is the one that is most tied to the representative democratic (small "d") process, and that takes precedence over "continuity." The voter gets a chance to hold the board members to his/her will more closely with a more frequent election cycle. This benefits everyone, including the kids. A board more tied to the voter is more accountable, and has to be more responsive, to the voter. It is unfortunate that, in explaining her position, Slawson thought it best to snipe that "politics have started to become an issue for the board." Given the fact that we have careened into near financial ruin as a district, it is obvious that a change in direction (which I hate to have to break to Ms. Slawson requires disagreement) was in order much sooner than this. But no, she doesn't want disagreement getting in the way, even now. She can disparage this as mere "politics," but I think that term is simply a pejorative meant to diminish those whom she sees as opponents and to silence them. The fact is, the board has always been partisan; it's just that the go-along, get-along mentality that prevailed never seriously challenged the partisanship, which has for years been in favor of granting the education unions pretty much whatever they want. This explains why we are where we are financially, and it has only begun to change very recently.

Dog Guy

Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Repeated elections are such a bother . . .a waste of time and money. The third world has it right: "one man, one vote, one time."


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

I agree with Holden and Zimmer on this for all the reasons stated above. My first thought was any of these folks could get serious "fatigue" serving six year terms and decide to quit. We need to remember these folks serve us without pay on this board and do so because they care about the school district. Most if not all, hold down full time jobs, have families and other commitments just like the rest of us. Leaving politics out of it for now, I think the six year term idea just stinks. Good Day


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 10:52 a.m.

Elected officials extending their own length of service without our blessing? Will they give themselves raises in this manner also? Perhaps build nice retirement packages? Top of the line insurance coverage? Sounds like they feel they have a controllable board to make certain agendas happen. Looks like we voters wait 6 years and replace all those who voted yes. Just curious, what is the process to replace a Superintendent? I hope our legislators are not watching!