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 Board voted 4 to 3 Tuesday to select as the district's next superintendent. Their decision followed the last of three interviews with the finalists at . 

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.

Harwood, who is the district's current assistant superintendent of human resources, competed for the job with and .

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 . 

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
  • Lansing
  • Leadership, especially in connection with controversial issues involving employees
  • Instruction, educational opportunities for teachers 

Harwood to the second phase of interviewing last month. He also superintendent position but was not offered the position.

Harwood is to work with Superintendent C. Suzanne Klein through December, , 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. 

Mike Reno July 13, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Food for thought: Nowhere in any American institution to we expect or achieve 100% agreement on anything. Not in our marriages, our families, our churches. Government and democracy survive because of debate, discussion, and even arguments. The wisdom of the founding fathers comes from their creation of a forum in which these debates and arguments can occur.
michelle July 13, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Dindoffer, Jakubiec, Pangborn & Steiniger have clearly lost touch with the people who have elected them to office. The best candidtate to lead the GPPSS was not chosen last evening. Ultimately our kids will pay the price for their lack of courage - they are content to remain stagnant in educating our children and continue to abuse their power. Mr. Harwood is not yet confimed as our new superintendent and I hope after his extensive background check the BOE will turn down this candidate fo lead the GPPSS into the future and return to the drawing board. OUR KIDS DESERVE THE BEST!
Bill July 13, 2011 at 01:06 PM
I completely agree with Michelle and Pamela. 4-3 is not exactly a vote of confidence. I would have liked to have seen some discussion about the other two candidates before a final vote. It was clear that Dindoffer, from her body language and actions, was uncomfortable with her decision. It is my understanding that Harwood is the subject of open complaints, filed by parents, that have not been adjudicated yet. How can he become the next superintendent before these complaints have even been investigation? It is clear our school board is deeply divided and largely ineffectual. The next couple of years are key to our school system (budget cuts, school of choice) and ultimately our community. We need strong moral leadership from our superintendent and our school board. It is clear that the current group is not up to the task.
Jeremy Nielson July 13, 2011 at 01:36 PM
I think Rochester missed an excellent opportunity to hire Mr. Harwood. . He's demonstrated his ability to innovate, to reach consensus in difficult negotiations, and has a focus on maintaining high levels of success. By ensuring prudent spending, Mr. Harwood has laid a good foundation to maintain class sizes and retain effective teachers. . As I said, Rochester missed an excellent opportunity - and Grosse Pointe will do well under his leadership!
Brian Hunt July 13, 2011 at 02:06 PM
The board missed a great opportunity to move our district forward but went back to the politics as usual mentality. Choosing an outside the "office" candidate would have surely improved our school system and moved us in the right direction. Now this will be as good as it gets. We need to stay on top of our schools. That is one of the only saving graces for the Grosse Pointes. Lose it and we will have no draw for young families to move or stay here. At that point real-estate will fall even more!
GP Mom July 13, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Something was very strange about this process. The vote was not supposed to take place until July 25. Three Board members had prepared speeches in favor of Harwood ten minutes after the last candidate was interviewed. (I saw Mr. Steininger reading and turning pages during his pro-Harwood speech.) Ms. Dindoffer looked like her arm was being twisted and was visibly uncomfortable with her vote. The public commentary was minimal. The Board should have been offered the chance to vote straight up or down for each candidate. AND it is possible there would have been a 4/3 vote in favor of at least one other candidate. I personally would have liked to see a 2/3 majority or unanimous vote requirement. With all due respect, this process was FLAWED!
Greg July 13, 2011 at 02:54 PM
How much money did the school board spend on the "nationwide search" for our new Superintendent? Was this a responsible use of the taxpayers' money?
michelle July 13, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Mr. Steininger leads with a loud hollow voice and is a bully. Many BOE members are victims of his bullying, especially Mrs. Dindoffer who used to be a great leader and was one of the clear voices of reason on the board, what a disappointment she has become. Perhaps it's time for a recall of some of our board members. If confirmed, Mr. Harwood will the 'yes' man Steininger wants, as proven in the December 2010 firing of our GPS football coach. Our real estate values keep plummneting, is this what we want for our schools as well?
Linda Heidt July 13, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Although achieving 100% agreement may not be realistic, not expecting it is what has led to the breakdown of our marriages, our families, our churches and ultimately our school board. I saw very little debate, discussion, or even arguments last night. What I saw was a clear case of bullying and intimidation. If the wisdom of the founding fathers comes from their creation of a forum in which debates and arguments can occur, they would be sadly disappointed in last night’s fiasco. One would hope that those making decisions on behalf of our children would do so with the poise and confidence that is expected of an elected official. One can only hope that the citizens of our fine community will take a stand in an attempt to reverse last nights decision and find a superintendent that has the best interest of the students, parents and taxpayers of this community and not just the interests of select school board members.
Heidi Linn July 13, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Another embarrassment for the GPSS, our esteemed board voting in a candidate who is the subject of open complaints. Obviously Rochester did not hire Mr. Harwood, a simple background check would reveal that he is not qualified, as we have seen first hand through the negative publicity that he has brought to our school system. Mr. Steininger when referring to Mr. Harwood states "he would offer consistency during a time when the district will experience vast changes in administration all at once" ..., noting the many principal vacancies What Mr. Steininger failed to note was Mr. Harwood's role in the vast changes and principal vacancies. It is clearly time we take a good look at the integrity of our school board members who are making decisions on our behalf.
michelle July 13, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Mr. Neilson, we in GP are also disappointed that Rochester did not hire Mr. Harwood.
Paulette July 13, 2011 at 05:34 PM
What a shame this board and central office administration has allowed the special interests and promises of a very few determine the course of an entire district. One bad and irresponsible decision after another. When is it going to stop. When are the other adults in authority going to put a stop to Steininger's bullying and vindictive tactics? His demeanor, tone and behind the scene tactics are destructive. Harwood is his "foot soldier". BTW, Traverse City SD didn't want him either in 2/05 as their Superintendent.
Karen July 13, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Great question, Greg.
Louis July 13, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Are we to understand that Mr. Harwood was the superior candidate to all others in the entire nation? I think the real question is how much money did Mr. Harwood and his croonies spend on the search. Considering the players I am sure there is much scandal to follow.
Leo Nouhan July 14, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Sounds like we need to resurrect the Grosse pointe community network.
Bethany Woodward July 14, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Three of the four egregious Board members lack children in the system and education background. We can thank our current leader for not fighting the good fight and putting pushy individuals and their agendas aside. During her long tenure, our district is still “operating” on a 1998 Tech Bond, continue to lack a technology curriculum, is not aligned to the Common Core as mandated by the State and we continue to overcrowd the classes. We need a strong leader who recognizes that we are NO longer a “Lighthouse” district and status quo has kept us in the 1990s. Sadly, the GP Foundation can not keep the district afloat and our community will mirror Indian Village (nice houses with crappy schools) sooner than not!
Ranae Beyerlein, PhD July 15, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Dr. Klein was reportedly hired with a 4-3 vote.
Ranae Beyerlein, PhD July 15, 2011 at 03:16 AM
$30,000 or so.
Ranae Beyerlein, PhD July 15, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Both Fred Minturn and John Steininger's current terms expire in December of 2011. The deadline to file for candidacy for these positions with the city clerk is August 15. While you are still afforded the democratic opportunity to locally elect school boards, you might avail yourselves of this right by voting for or against candidates who don't support your wishes. Attend Board meetings and contact the Board members with your concerns. In speaking as their representative, the teachers value community involvement with the school board and appreciate your participation in our school district's governance. We know you value quality public education. There will be an open house for the two candidates, who have been chosen as finalists for the South High principal. After you have interacted with the candidates, please let Dr. Klein, Mr. Harwood, and the Board members know of your ideas for the next leader at South. For more information regarding that, visit the district's Web site.
Elizabeth July 15, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Gosh, I'm certain Dr. Klein, Mr. Harwood, and the Board of Education will be very receptive to community input for the new South Principal. They really listened to our feedback regarding the new Superintendent, and it was just an amazing display of democracy in choosing to vote on and discuss only one candidate, less than 15 minutes after the last interview concluded. I hope someone apologized to Dr. Machesky and Mr. Dean for wasting their time in this farce of a "nation-wide" search for the best candidate.
Bob July 15, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Quick straw poll...This past week as I attended all superintendent interviews, the school of choice meeting, a baseball game, a hockey game and have fielded emails and phone calls regarding the new superintendent candidate, there is not one ounce of support in the community, on both the North & South end - be it parents, teachers or concerned community members for Tom Harwood. How did our BOE get it so wrong?
Lela July 15, 2011 at 07:14 PM
I certainly hope all the concerned citizens of the community are also flooding the BOE, and the superintendents office with emails, and phone calls voicing their displeasure. Especially now in light of BOE vote to not approve Head Start at Paupard....
Marie July 15, 2011 at 07:45 PM
They got it wrong because the 4 members of the board that voted for him were concerned with their own interests and not those of the community. Mr. Steineger runs that board like his own private company, even telling (or should i say threatening) community members what they can and cannot say at board meetings, isn't this a free country? This was a done deal before the interviews even started, just as the new principal at South is a done deal, Mr. Steineger made sure of that through his puppet Mr. Harwood. Why are we wasting serious candidates time and taxpayers money?? Mr. Harwood is not the right choice and I have deep concerns for the future of this district.
J Smith July 16, 2011 at 01:38 PM
With “School of Choice” on our back step we are at a time when the focus of this community should be on Lansing and the drastic changes proposed on how we educate our children. Yet thanks to select board members the integrity of our school system will once again be questioned as we find ourselves right in the middle of yet another scandal which will be played out in the media. The entire superintendent selection process was nothing more than “Theatre of the Absurd.” The time and money that was wasted on this sham is embarrassing. As parents, students, teachers, staff and taxpayers get fed up with Mr. Steineger and his disciples (Mr. Jakubiec, Mrs. Pangborn, and sadly…Mrs. Dindoffer) and their “politics as usual” we find a community united, focusing on background checks, recalls, and lawsuits of select board members while some very real issues are being ignored.
J Smith July 16, 2011 at 02:29 PM
It is important to understand that this entire superintendent search has taken on a life of its own. Many in this community may not understand the role of the school board, it’s responsibilities, or even the players involved but everyone understands “bullying”. Anyone who saw the superintendent interviews witnessed this first hand in Mr. Steineger’s behavior. Mr. Steineger and his disciples are an embarrassment, wasting not just the taxpayer’s time and money but also that of the very qualified candidates that they chose to dismiss in favor of the less than qualified Mr. Harwood. I would ask that as the board enters into negotiations with Mr. Harwood and after completing an extensive background check and site visit you would not approve Mr. Harwood as the next superintendent.
Paulette July 16, 2011 at 02:40 PM
J Smith, you are so right on. Marie and J Smith, you are so right on target. This is a "screen play" already written. Interestingly enough, the interview team for Principal at south included, Harwood, who had one of the final candidates (Outlaw) on his own application as a reference..does anybody see that as a conflict? Perhaps, now that Harwood is the new Superintendent it might be a better idea that he not make it so obvious that Outlaw was already in position for that south job and perhaps instead bring him to 389 as his replacement in Human Resources..either way, Outlaw is positioned for the south job or as an Assistant Superintendent that I am sure in on the next page of the manuscript.
Lela July 16, 2011 at 02:52 PM
When are the terms for the "4 horsemen of the Apocalypse" up?
Dan R July 16, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Steininger 12/31/2011 Minturn 12/31/2011 Gafa 12/31/2012 Pangborn 12/31/2012 Dindoffer 12/31/2013 Jakubiec 12/31/2013 Walsh 12/31/2014
Lela July 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Thanks Dan.
Steve July 17, 2011 at 06:59 PM
I've spent significant time watching all of the interviews and am appalled at the decision. Mr. Harwood was not the best candidate. Mr. Dean was. I have contacted the Board to encourage them to vote 'no' on the Harwood contract next week. We should all attend to demonstrate our displeasure with this decision.


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