GROSSE POINTES — While choosing board officers can seem like a dull point on some school board agendas, the Grosse Pointe Public School Board have approached their election process in the spirit of debate.
Prior to the board officer election at the Jan. 28 board meeting, Judy Gafa and Cindy Pangborn were sworn in for their next term on the school board after winning back their seats during last November’s election.
Then, the board sat down to figure out who would serve as their leaders at the board table for the next year. Last year, they voted to make Gafa president by a 4-3 vote, but the same vote failed by a 4-3 vote this year. Joan Dindoffer earned the top spot this year with a 6-1 vote during the Jan. 28 board meeting.
“We have a person with, I believe, the experience, the credentials and the ability to work with all of the board members,” board Trustee Thomas Jakubiec said of Dindoffer.
After the motion to appoint Gafa failed, Gafa ended up voting for Dindoffer in the next vote.
There were comments from a couple of board members who felt that they were not included in committees and other areas. They questioned their treatment under previous board leadership.
Jakubiec was one of those board members.
“What I have seen and what many people have seen is the movement to where the full board wasn’t really engaged to do the best good for the district,” he said.
“We need to make sure and set the tone with the president of this board, who has the wherewithal and the composure to be able to help the board move forward productively, to move forward as an entire unit, not a subset of elected employees to represent this district,” he said.
Pangborn was another board member who wanted change in leadership.
“I believe that she (Gafa) did not engage the board as a whole,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs and a lot of things that have gone on, especially toward the election.”
Gafa, however, defended her work and leadership as board president.
“I feel that I’ve served this past year with honor and integrity,” she said. “I moved this board forward as civilly as possible with the personalities on this board. I’m very proud of how I behaved this past year.”
Gafa had other support, including board members Lois Valente, Dan Roeske and resident George McMullen, who spoke at the meeting.
McMullen and the other two board members praised Gafa for her work, which included attending many events in the community and working with officials at the national and state levels to make positive changes for the district.
“Thank you for your tireless efforts and a job well done,” McMullen said. “I hope the board again endorses you as president to continue to the mission to maintain local control and to move our school system forward for the next year.”
Valente said Gafa helped guide the district through some significant changes, including changes in top administrators in the district.
Roeske also praised Gafa.
“Every board president brings different experiences and brings a different flavor to the job,” he said, mentioning the large number of votes Gafa obtained from residents in the November election. “She’s been an advocate for schools.”
Board Treasurer Brendan Walsh prefaced his announcement that he would be supporting Dindoffer by questioning the usefulness of criticizing those who previously served as officers.
He felt they should speak of the positives of the person they support, instead.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to lob a bunch of negatives at anybody,” Walsh said. “I don’t think that’s what the community wants.
“I think (Dindoffer) brings a skill set that will allow us to move into some different directions, and it’s not a statement of negativity about Mrs. Gafa or the great work that she did. I appreciate her work, and I appreciate the work that everybody puts into the board. These are not personal decisions.”
When Dindoffer took her seat at the head of the table, she thanked Gafa for her service.
“We look forward to your continued involvement in a myriad of ways on the board,” Dindoffer said.
The other three posts at the board table were chosen with unanimous votes.
The new vice president is Roeske, who previously served as secretary. The new secretary is Valente, who was formerly vice president. Brendan Walsh will continue his previous service as treasurer.
“Mr. Walsh has done a great service to the community in his position as treasurer,” Valente said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who’s done it as well since I’ve been part of Grosse Pointe Schools.”
Gafa “respectfully declined” a nomination for vice president, and made the motion to appoint Roeske.
“I think Dan, too, has served with honor and distinction and would make a great vice president,” Gafa said.
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