Application Window Closes for South Band Director
Despite pleas from parents and students at the last school board meeting to rethink their decision about terminating Grosse Pointe South's Jazz Band director, the district's application process for the job has already closed.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated story has been written concerning the documents included in this story related to the termination of Stephen Cross after school board members realized the wrong documents had been released to Patch in a Freedom of Information Act request. Please see the updated story for more information.
Officials at Grosse Pointe Public Schools are likely beginning to review the applications for an instructional music teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School and Pierce Middle School to replace Stephen Cross.
Cross was terminated by the Grosse Pointe Public School Board June 15--the last day of school a few hours before the graduation ceremony--for a letter he sent to parents informing them of changes to his job that would impact how he operates the student musician's schedules for next school year.
According to a resolution by the Board of Education to terminate Cross recently released to Patch, it was for being an ineffective teacher and "he has not sufficiently demonstrated adequate professional judgement."
His job has been listed on the district's website since June 19. Generally those positions are also posted on other educational forums at the same time. The search went on despite pleas from parents, current students and former students who all complimented Cross' level of dedication and sheer excitement about music.
Most talked about how Cross had improved the band program, gotten many more students involved in music and was tireless in his pursuit to grow it and impassion students about music.
The pleas were shared with the school board during its last meeting June 25. School board members mostly declined to speak about the situation but commended everyone who spoke on Cross' behalf, especially the students.
Board President Judy Gafa did tell the audience at the end of the meeting that the board's unanimous feelings about Cross and the ultimate 6-1 vote to terminate him speaks volumes about the situation. She noted how rare it is for the board to all agree about any topic.
The closing date for the job posting was this week, meaning distirct officials are likely to begin reviewing applications next week to fill the vacancy.
The termination happened during what district and board members have repeatedly told Patch was an open meeting that did include proper notice according to Michigan's Open Meetings Act.
The act does not specifically require the notifications of the meetings to be posted online--a point emphasized to Patch repeatedly while inquiring about the termination.
The district's standard practice in posting meetings--open and closed--is to post it on the board's online calendar through their website in addition to posting a paper notice in the administration building at 389 St. Clair St. This particular meeting was never posted on the online calendar. It also happened less than 24 hours after school officials told Cross about their unhappiness with the letter.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Patch, the district released a series of documents related to the meeting, the board's resolution, the notice posted for it, the letter Cross sent to parents as well as the district's response to parents who voiced concerns about his termination and questioned the decision. All of these documents are attached to this article as PDFs in the pictures area.
The district has yet to release minutes from the board's meeting in which the decision to terminate Cross was made. Orignially Patch was told the minutes would be available followin the June 25 school board meeting because the board would approve them.
The minutes from that particular meeting were not listed on the agenda however and have not been approved. Following that meeting, Patch was told the board would approve minutes from all the June meetings in July rather than splitting the approvals between months.
Yet the Open Meetings Act states:
"Proposed minutes must be available for public inspection within 8 business days after a meeting. Approved minutes must be available within 5 business days after the meeting at which they were approved. Corrections in the minutes must be made no later than the next meeting after the meeting to which the minutes refer. Corrected minutes must be available no later than the next meeting after the correction and must show both the original entry and the correction."
Meanwhile, Patch is awaiting information about the job search that is on-going to replace Cross.