opinion: Working with Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidation will benefit future of the district
Many people voted in favor of the consolidation to avoid the negative consequence of the status quo, such as trying to finance an unwieldy debt or risking state takeover. As a community volunteer who has been intensely involved in the consolidation campaign and planning process I support the merger because of the incredible possibilities and opportunities the new district holds.
Hundreds of school personnel and community members are volunteering their time to serve on seven committees that often meet several times weekly to work on recommendations for the new board on teaching, school culture and climate, early childhood, athletics, college credit, naming and leadership. The deep thinking and commitment shown by the participants is inspiring.
The potential outcomes for students in our community are exciting and far-reaching. The recommendations forming out of these groups include seamless opportunities for high school students to earn college credit and degrees, centers of excellence to guide our athletics, and a school climate program rooted in some of the most innovative practices used nationally. What is taking shape is truly a world class district that our entire community will revere. There will definitely be bumps, but those of us involved in the process truly believe the end product will be exceptional.
One of the bumps occurred this past week. On Monday evening, the board voted to approach the Washtenaw Intermediate School District to contract for a superintendent as permitted by the school code.
The recommendation of the search committee was comprehensive and included offering the current superintendents the opportunity to serve as Associate Superintendents in the new district, should they agree. A vocal contingent of community stakeholders came out fiercely against the board’s decision to hire the two current superintendents as associates and to appoint the WISD superintendent to lead the new district. I was surprised by the reaction.
As I observe and participate in the consolidation planning I have witnessed the two current superintendents put the community and our students above self. Both have shown a deep commitment to the process and absolute engagement to doing the hard work to create a world-class district. Each has done so cooperatively, supportively and determinedly even though neither was guaranteed a job at the end.
As the consolidation emerged, each of these people could have competed against the other to try and prove they were the better leader for the district, however they chose cooperation as it is the right thing to do for our kids. Furthermore, the consolidation planning and the deep thinking about what is best for our students has been led admirably by the staff at the WISD.
Their superintendent, Scott Menzel, has shown great determination, leadership and commitment to a complicated and challenging process that one of the committee members likened to “trying to change a flat tire while speeding down the highway at 80 miles an hour”. Their continued participation in the transition will be key in keeping the process going smoothly and on-track.
In my view the school board made a solid, yet safe choice in its superintendent selection. With so many things all moving at once, we need dedicated, engaged people who are already deeply involved in the process, like the three current superintendents, to help us begin implementation. Living in a democracy, community members have every right to oppose decisions our leaders make.
I have not agreed with every decision that has occurred in the consolidation process. However, the nastiness and viciousness some have demonstrated in their opposition to the superintendents’ choice is appalling and dismaying.
As we start afresh in a district that has so many incredible possibilities, let’s not revert to disrespectful and rude behavior. Let’s be a role model for the children of the new district how to be thoughtful, civic-minded, and positively engaged. If we are committed to that, the process for creating an outstanding educational program will be all of ours to own and take pride in. If we fail to act civilly we run the risk of squandering a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a world class school district.
John Kenneth Weiss is a resident of Ypsilanti.