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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 for more information.

Officials at are likely beginning to review the applications for an instructional music teacher at and to replace Stephen Cross.

--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.

Maureen Krasner July 16, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I am a band parent who was present at the June school board meeting. (By way of full disclosure, I was NOT there to show my support of Mr. Cross.) I completely disagree with your characterization of the Board members at that meeting. I think the mischaracterization of that meeting does both the School Board and the 9 or 10 students and parents that spoke up a great disservice. The Board went out of their way to accommodate the comments from the supporting Pierce and South students and parents-- reorganizing their documented agenda to insure there was time and almost unanimously complimenting the students for speaking with such passion and thanking them for their advocacy. They acknowledged that this represented an unpleasant but necessary part of their job, said nothing to disparage Mr. Cross (or anyone else) and voiced their continued support for the instrumental programs. There was nothing patronizing or sneaky in their approach to this. As a South (and Brownell) parent and taxpayer in this community-- I applaud and thank the Board for their dedication to our school system and students.
LMJ July 16, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Have you ever been to a School Board meeting? I don't know how this comment passed the approval of Patch but it's incredibly offensive. All of our Board trustees, whether you agree with them or not put in a formidable amount of time, energy, and thought into their philanthropic service to our community. How sad when comments such as this serve to criminalize and demoralize people who do what they do in the service of our kids.
Kaitlyn LaMagno July 17, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Yes, the fact that he's fighting so hard for his job really seems to match up with your point about him threatening to quit. And who are you to comment on a pay cut that only impacts him? Do you have any idea how much he did for the band program? Do you have any idea how much time he put into his work? I'm sick of hearing criticism from people hiding behind the internet's precious anonymous shield. And as Ms. Jacobs so kindly reminded everyone, it's been awhile since Critical Thinking 101. Take a step back. Look at the economy in Michigan. It's terrible. The arts and physical education programs are the first things to get cut.
Joy Turner July 17, 2012 at 09:52 AM
My understanding is that Mr Cross attempted to meet with the HR person Jon Dean on numerous occasions during the month of May to discuss his employment situation. Mr Dean ignored the requests. It was then that Mr Cross sent the letter to the parents. These are some of the issues that would have come up had the meeting to terminate Mr Cross complied with the open meetings ACt and had the public known. I have emailed the administration about the requested meetings with Mr Dean and no one has denied that Mr Dean ignored Mr Cross' request to discuss his employment situation. The administration has not responded to my question as to why if they deemed Mr Cross' actions offensive in light of their unwillingness to meet with him why they did not choose some other form of discipline short of termination.
Bob Carr July 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I compliment all individuals who are willing to stand up and be counted for their opinions and their views. My praise includes many on the other side of this discussion from myself, whether or not I agree with their thought process or analysis: Brendan and Lynn and Judy and Maureen and the others of integrity who join this discussion as concerned members of the community are as worthy of praise in this regard as Roberta and Birgit and Joy and Alan. These individuals are willing to be identified by name with the views that they express and by this willingness the integrity of their views and motives may be seen for what they are. I am disappointed, on the other hand, that some instead choose to hide their identities. Our discussion on the internet will be honest and worthwhile to the extent that we, of all views, do not let pseudonyms take the place masks or a hoods. Those nameless individuals are not willing to be identified by name with the views that they express and by this willingness the integrity of their views and motives may also be seen for what they are.

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