Board member questions Eastpointe superintendent’s report

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 22, 2024






EASTPOINTE — At the first Eastpointe Community Schools Board of Education meeting of 2024 — held Jan. 8 at Eastpointe City Hall — tension grew between Trustee Mary Hall-Rayford and President Jon Gruenberg when Hall-Rayford questioned Christina Gibson’s superintendent’s report.

Gibson presents a superintendent’s report at each school board meeting that spotlights upcoming events and accomplishments in the district. Hall-Rayford, however, believes the report also needs to reflect “the not-so-nice things going on.”

“We tend to get all the really nice, rainbow-sugary-type reports; however, there’s some other disturbing things going on out there that the community is concerned about and so am I,” Hall-Rayford said. “School performance — the grade is abysmal. We need to be transparent with the community and not just give them the pretty highlights, but all of it.”

When the subject came up, Gruenberg recommended that Hall-Rayford discuss the matter with the superintendent. Gibson offered to make an appointment with Hall-Rayford, who turned down the suggestion.

“Thank you, but I’m not interested in an appointment,” Hall-Rayford said. “I think the public needs to know exactly why we are having difficulty with performance, exactly why nothing has been said about impending lawsuits. I realize you can’t say a whole lot. But these are things that people want to know. They keep asking me. Personally, I said, Jon, they need to ask you.”

Gruenberg mentioned that people are free to come to the hearing of the public during the school board meetings.

“My email address is listed as well as, I believe, my phone number is,” Gruenberg said. “People are free to contact us at any time.”

“Well, they don’t feel comfortable coming,” Hall-Rayford said. “They don’t feel like people are paying attention to them.”

“That’s fine. I don’t feel comfortable with people stating things about low performance and things like that when I think that our administration has been very transparent when they give us our updates on every particular school,” Gruenberg said. “We’re as transparent as any other district out there.”

“I’m simply saying the public needs to be aware of all the things that are not so nice,” Hall-Rayford said.

The superintendent’s Jan. 8 report included information about the district’s newsletter that was mailed out in December, news about a district field trip, photos of an event called “Donuts with Dads,” and a brief “2023 Year in Review” video.

“The superintendent is trying to highlight the things going on good in the district,” Gruenberg said, banging the gavel. “This is not a debate.”

“No, it’s not a debate,” Hall-Rayford said. “I’m going to say what I want to say here.”

“No, you’re not,” Gruenberg said, banging the gavel again.

“Yes, I am,” Hall-Rayford said.

“I’m sorry,” Gruenberg said. “We’re going to move on. Next item on the agenda is hearing of the public”

“Well, I’ll talk over you. You can cut my mic off. I don’t really care,” Hall-Rayford said. “At this point, there needs to be some accountability.”

Gruenberg then made a motion for a three-minute recess. The board voted 5-1 for the recess. Hall-Rayford voted against the measure; board member Addie M. Richardson was absent. After the recess, the board members reconvened for the meeting.

In a follow-up email, Gibson commented on the purpose of the superintendent’s report.

“The superintendent’s report has not traditionally been the place for these types of issues to be addressed with the board or the public, and has always been a vehicle to highlight upcoming events, as well as student and staff accomplishments,” she said.

“Furthermore, I believe in the concept of strengths-based leadership, which means finding and highlighting the positive and the strengths of what our staff and students are doing,” Gibson said. “It’s no secret that teaching and education can be incredibly challenging at times, and I firmly believe that taking the time to publicly highlight the good work being done in our schools is critical to the success of our students, teachers, principals and staff.”

Educators often attend board meetings to give presentations on their specific areas of expertise.

“This includes our building principals, who address their individual school’s data and what is being done to improve outcomes for students in their buildings,” Gibson said.

Moving forward, Gibson said she plans to include more information about the district’s processes and procedures in the superintendent’s report “to help the community better understand how and when data is collected and presented both internally and externally.”