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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. 

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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