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East Detroit fails to select new board member

Macomb ISD will choose from five candidates

May 14, 2014

EASTPOINTE — After a series of interviews and time to deliberate during a special meeting May 5, the East Detroit Board of Education failed to select who would fill the vacant board seat left open by Jon G. Gruenberg’s resignation.

The five board members present — with Treasurer Charley Jackson absent — were unable to attain the four votes necessary under state law to approve any of the five candidates who were interviewed. Those were Karren Borsa, Kristin Kuzner, Charisse Lowther-Sanders, Marello Mays and Tabitha Robinson.

Borsa and Lowther-Sanders had both applied for the previous board vacancy in February when Paul Seibert retired and planned to move out of Eastpointe. They interviewed on March 10 for the seat ultimately filled by Jackson, and while both were nominated for Gruenberg’s seat by the board twice, neither garnered enough votes to be appointed.

Candidates were asked why they wanted to join the board, if they could disagree with a decision and stand behind it, how they would handle irate parents, what the role of the board is, and what the intent is of a board meeting.

After Borsa, Mays, Lowther-Sanders and Kuzner were all nominated and failed to reach four votes, Trustee Deena Trocino and Secretary Jon S. Gruenberg argued that Borsa was the best person for the job. Trocino said she wanted to avoid another deadlock situation, which the board nearly had gotten itself into during discussions over Seibert’s seat.

“I think everybody had great answers, but as far as where the passion lies in the community — living in the community, having kids in the community — I can’t think of anyone better for this position than (Borsa), and it would be a tragedy to not have you in the board,” Trocino said.

Gruenberg said that as a former district employee, she may have argued against the board during contract negotiations, but she had been a positive force trying to retain students in the schools, and she had a passion for the district.

“I’d be proud to serve with any of the people who came in, so what decision we’re having to make is, ‘Who is the best, right at this moment?” And that’s Ms. Borsa, as much as she’s been to board meetings, as much as she knows of the district, as much as she knows what’s going on, and as much as she knows us — and we know her — and she’s willing to step up,” Gruenberg said.

However, Borsa failed to cross the four-vote threshold each time she was nominated to fill the seat. Board President Craig Wodecki asked for a recess for the board to deliberate, but after returning, they were no closer to a consensus.

Wodecki initially had supported Mays, liking his responses to the questions asked, but Wodecki said that after it was clear he could not garner the four votes, he moved to support Lowther-Sanders.

“My next choice was Ms. Sanders, who did a good job the first time around and did just as well the second time around,” he said. “I thought possibly she would garner support from two board members who voted for her the first time around, when we appointed Mr. Jackson, but that didn’t happen.”

Under the district’s rules, the Macomb Intermediate School District will be asked to go over the interviews with the candidates and their credentials before selecting who will fill the seat. Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch told the Eastsider May 6 that she was trying to determine what timetable the ISD had.

Wodecki said he was not a fan of letting the ISD decide, but he felt it was the only way to move forward on the issue.

“Do I like the fact it’s going to the ISD? Not really, but I knew that night that no matter what, we weren’t going to get four votes for one candidate,” Wodecki said.

Whoever fills the seat will serve until the end of 2014, when the term expires. They will have the option to run for a full term on the November ballot.

About the author

Staff Writer Kevin Bunch covers the communities of Eastpointe and Roseville, as well as Roseville Community Schools and East Detroit Public Schools. He has worked at C&G Newspapers since 2013, and is a graduate of Wayne State University and Henry Ford Community College. Kevin is also a 2015 Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting alumni.

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