Grosse Pointe School Board Votes 4:3 for Harwood as Next Superintendent
Vote hinged on board member Joan Dindoffer--who asked to pass on her vote initially but after being told the board would wait, voted in favor of the only internal candidate.
In a contentious decision, the Grosse Pointe School Board voted 4 to 3 Tuesday to select Tom Harwood as the district's next superintendent. Their decision followed the last of three interviews with the finalists at Grosse Pointe South High School.
The vote briefly hinged on board member Joan Dindoffer, who had tried to delay the decision through a motion to narrow the pool of candidates to two and complete a site visit in Birmingham Public Schools. Her motion gained no support and failed.
Dindoffer tried to pass when it came time for her to vote. She was the last to vote before board president John Steininger, who told her the board would wait on her rather than allow her to pass her turn momentarily. After a moment, she voted yes and Steininger had to ask her to repeat her vote because she said it so meekly.
The outcome was predicted by many long before Tuesday. It also garnered a variety of reactions. A group of parents sitting near the back of the auditorium who often scoffed about board members comments during their brief yet pointed discussion stood up in mass to exit as Steininger announced Harwood and the completion of the meeting.
Seconds later, normally mild-mannered board member Fred Minturn threw his chair on the stage of the auditorium and briskly exited. As he walked through the sea of parents, he told them loudly this is what they voted for--referring to school board elections.
Dean is the assistant superintendent of human resources for Birmingham Public Schools and Machesky is the assistant superintendent for secondary education in Troy School District.
The board did not entertain discussion about the candidates without a motion, and board member Cynthia Pangborn motioned to hire Harwood almost immediately. She was seconded by board member Tom Jakubiec. Discussion followed before the vote, but it was minimal--a point Jakubiec mentioned was bothersome.
Minturn told Jakubiec he was refraining from discussion because he was trying to not be negative about the candidates and that his vote was not in favor of Harwood but rather he was "uniquely excited" about some of the possibilities discussed by another candidate.
Jakubiec also said his support of Harwood wasn't without recognizing that all three men interviewed well and had assets that would benefit the district. He said he is hopeful the district can utilize the other candidates in some format in the district.
After everyone else declined any further comment, Steininger said his reason for wanting Harwood is for consistency and ease in transition. Considering the economic climate of school funding and Harwood's negotiation of unique contracts linking employee pay to the level of the general fund balance, Harwood's skills are necessary for the future, Steininger said.
Crediting Harwood with giving the district financial options through his contract work, Steininger said the board would be remiss to lose him and his skills by rewarding the superintendent position to someone else. Plus he would offer consistency during a time when the district will experience vast changes in administration all at once, Steininger said, noting the many principal vacancies.
Grosse Pointe Education Association President Ranae Beyerlein said she hopes everyone can come together and recognize that they need to operate as a unit because their real enemy as of late is Lansing not each other.
"We hope that whatever transgressions have transpired (can be resolved)," Beyerlein said. "It's bigger than us, it's Lansing."
She described Harwood as dedicated, hardworking and with the best of intentions for the students. She said although some of her members have a hard time forgiving him for the tough times during contract negotiations, the teacher's union employees do plan to work together.
Beyerlein and six GPEA members interviewed the candidates in private meetings between their public community receptions and second interviews Monday and Tuesday. She said the chief areas of concern among their questions for the candidates included:
- their management of the school board
- how to deal with problematic parents
- Leadership, especially in connection with controversial issues involving employees
- Instruction, educational opportunities for teachers
Harwood received the same 4:3 vote to return to the second phase of interviewing last month. He also tried for the Rochester Community Schools superintendent position but was not offered the position.
Harwood is to work with Superintendent C. Suzanne Klein through December, when she is set to retire, to ease the transition. The board will entered into negotiations with Harwood concerning his salary and the selection determined Tuesday is contingent upon three factors:
- an extensive background check
- a site visit
- successful salary negotiations
The board had originally hoped to have the candidate and negotiations completed with the goal of approving it during the July meeting, which is the 25th.