Updated: 1 Ypsilanti board member, 2 Willow Run and 4 fresh faces picked to lead joint school district
Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com
Editor's note: Where one appointed school board member's youngest child goes to school has been corrected in this story.
The former board presidents from Ypsilanti and Willow Run, whom county leaders credited with launching the merger discussions, were among the seven individuals selected Monday to lead the new consolidated school district.
Residents of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school systems voted to consolidate on Nov. 6. Per state statute, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Board of Education must appoint a seven-member board to run the new Ypsi-Willow Run district and the two separate districts until the merger is official on July 1.
The appointed board members will serve until an election can take place in November 2014.
The five-member WISD board unanimously picked former Willow Run President Don Garrett and former Ypsilanti President David Bates from the start.
They will serve in the new district alongside Gregory Myers, who also was on the Willow Run school board, starting in January 2011; and Anthony VanDerworp, Daniel Raglin, Maria Sheler-Edwards and Celeste Hawkins.
VanDerworp, who also was chosen by all five right off the bat, is the current executive director of the Washtenaw Eastern Leaders Group.
VanDerworp said he has worked very closely with the school administration during his years as executive director. He and the Eastern Leaders Group were actively involved in supporting the development of the New Tech models at both Ypsilanti and Willow Run, the Washtenaw International High School, the Early College Alliance and WAY (Widening Advancements for Youth).
He said he played a role in helping to connect the schools with local business owners and entrepreneurs to engage in project-based learning activities with the children at these alternative secondary education schools.
Raglin, Sheler-Edward and Myers all received four “yes” votes and one “maybe” from the WISD board in its initial round of prioritizing the 18 candidates who applied for a spot. Each member of the WISD board went through the candidates and assigned up to 10 yeses or maybes to the 10 individuals they thought would best serve the new consolidated district.
The WISD board voted in favor of Raglin citing his experience in union relations as being possibly helpful during staff negotiations. Raglin is a former General Motors employee and currently is a career transition coach for Right Management in Southfield.
“I liked, too, that he had experience working for a large organization. Starting a new district I could see that being beneficial,” said WISD Trustee Diane Hockett. “He has a very positive approach.”
The WISD board discussed repeatedly the 15 or so emails it received from community members stating their opinions that the majority of the consolidated board should be new.
Myers was on the Willow Run board before, but Hockett pointed out he was one of the newest members of that board. Trustee Mary Jane Tramontin said she liked that Myers is a team player and came to the interview table with the whole picture and the end result in mind. Trustee Dayle Wright liked that he had experience in marketing.
“I was just very impressed with Greg (Myers) in his interview. He was a very passionate person. His beliefs came through very strong but he was a little bit calm and soft spoken, which shows he’s human so I liked that,” said Trustee Mark Van Bogelen.
Sheler-Edwards is an Ypsilanti school district resident who currently is sending her children to Lincoln schools. She has a senior who will be graduating from Lincoln High School and a 9 year old who attends South Arbor Charter Academy.
Her oldest son graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 2005 after attending private schools in his earlier years. Sheler-Edwards said her goal in becoming a board member for the new district is to provide the perspective of someone who did leave Ypsilanti schools to seek a better option for her kids, as many others have as well.
She said she hopes to create a new district that she and others similar to her could reconsider for their children.
WISD board members talked about how, at first, they were conflicted about whether to look at Sheler-Edwards leaving her home district as a positive or a negative.
“I think it points out she is a strong advocate for children and that she sees positive things happening with the new district,” Tramontin said.
“It was a concern for me as I deliberated,” Peoples said. “(But for me) that did not take precedent over the fact that she had worked so hard with the proposal and for the consolidation. It spoke to her commitment not only for her children but for all children.”
Hawkins received two “yes” votes and two “maybe” votes. WISD board members expressed concerns that perhaps Hawkins was too busy. The social worker, adjunct professor and Eastern Michigan University doctoral candidate could not attend Monday’s special WISD Board of Education meeting to hear that she had been chosen or to defend her time commitments.
The WISD board eventually decided her skillset would be of significant value to the new district and voted in favor of appointing Hawkins to the board.
The WISD board cited Hawkin's grant writing experience and previous work with “vulnerable populations.”
“I think we all have concerns about (the time commitment),” Peoples said. “ But I don’t think there was anything else we could do to make it very clear that this was going to take a lot of time. I think we need to look at the qualifications.”
He said one person, Kimberly Browning, did withdraw her application because after applying, she realized she might not have enough time to fully commit to serving on the board.
The newly appointed board will conduct its first meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 26 at Ypsilanti Public Schools. The trustees will be sworn in to both the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school boards at that time.
On Nov. 26, the trustees will conduct Ypsilanti business and Willow Run business concurrently and also will approve the application for consolidation that must be submitted to the state of Michigan to become a new school district.
During future meetings, the appointed school board will conduct one district’s business first, adjourn the meeting for that district and then start the meeting for the second district to address its separate business. The consolidated board also will rotate meeting locations, meeting in Ypsilanti one week and then Willow Run for the next meeting.
Wright said appointing just seven board members was difficult because there were 18 unique and qualified applicants.
"But it was also very enriching for me because I now know more about Ypsilanti and Willow Run than I ever did before," she said. "My heart and prayers will be with everyone as we go through this."