Farmington Board of Education selects interim superintendent

Trustees approve censure removal for Trustee Smith

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published January 14, 2021

 Assistant Superintendent of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bobbie Goodrum was selected by the Board of Education Jan. 5 as the district’s interim superintendent.

Assistant Superintendent of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bobbie Goodrum was selected by the Board of Education Jan. 5 as the district’s interim superintendent.

Photo provided by Farmington Public Schools

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FARMINGTON/HILLS — The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education approved the appointment, in a 6-0 vote, of a new interim superintendent to serve for the reminder of the school year, starting Jan. 23, following Superintendent Robert Herrera’s resignation.

“While we are truly gifted to have a number of FPS staff members that would be great in this role, the superintendent evaluation and succession planning committee, made up of (Board member Terri) Weems and I, have reviewed potential internal candidates. It’s our recommendation that the board appoints Dr. Bobbie Hayes Goodrum as the interim superintendent,” Board President Zach Rich said at the Jan. 5 meeting.

“Goodrum has been an educator for over 20 years and has been serving our district since 2007,” he added. “She brings to this interim role institutional knowledge, as well as a broad experience in education.”

Goodrum will take over as interim superintendent following Herrera’s resignation, which he announced at a board meeting Nov. 16.

“I am optimistic about this opportunity, because I believe in our Board of Education, our phenomenal staff, and our heavily invested community,” Goodrum said in a prepared statement. “We are FPS and we are stronger together. I know that through thoughtful collaboration with all stakeholders, communication, and continued hard work and dedication, we can provide our students and our community the quality education that all of our students deserve.”

Herrera continues to serve as the superintendent until the end of the first semester, Jan. 22, at which time he will be placed on work leave and act as a consultant to the district until the end of the school year, June 30.

Board member Angie Smith praised Goodrum’s work at Visions Unlimited, where she previously served as a special education supervisor before being promoted to the district’s assistant superintendent of diversity, equity and inclusion, and expressed her confidence in and gratitude for stepping into the role despite it being for a short time.

Rich said the board has been making strides in finding a new, full-time superintendent for the district as well. Requests for information and proposals have been sent out, and some have already been received, he said.

Members of the board handled another pressing matter that resulted from the previous Nov. 16 meeting.

 

Censure removed for Smith
Rich opened the discussion for a removal of the censure placed on Smith Nov. 16 by stating he believes the board needs to focus on moving forward.

“We need to keep our focus on moving forward, and in my opinion the best way to do that is to put all board members on an equal footing and remove the censure,” he said, adding that he was sickened by some vile comments reportedly made to Smith while she was out shopping over the weekend. “Hopefully, by removing the censure we can bring down the temperature in the community and keep our focus where it belongs.”

Board member Mable Fox supported the removal stating that while she wasn’t on the board when the censure was originally voted on, she has yet to see proof of the allegations that Smith made inappropriate comments and claims against Herrera, nor did she believe due process was followed on behalf of Smith.

“In the spirit of moving forward, which I believe we all want, it would be far more productive if we concentrate on developing a specific, written guidance for board members to follow when considering a censure action,” Fox said Jan. 5.

Board member Claudia Heinrich, however, didn’t want to jump too quickly into the possible censure removal.

“I would like to trust that Smith will work with this new board, demonstrating mutual respect of diverse ideas, but trust is not built by words, but by actions over time,” Heinrich said Jan. 5. “I would like to give this new board time to work together as a cohesive unit before taking the action of removing the censure of Smith. For that reason, I would like to move to table the motion to censure Smith for six months.”

Heinrich’s motion was not seconded, therefore it was not entertained.

Board member Terri Weems believes the admonishment and expression of disapproval carried out by the previous censure approval will remain regardless of if it’s technically removed, and added that the problems the district has faced can’t be pointed at just one person.

“I am very disappointed by the recent resignations, but I also want to acknowledge that I’m most disappointed in the number of distractions we’ve had as a district, not just in the past couple of months, but really in the past two years,” she said. “As easy as it would be to point fingers, the departure of our last not one, but two superintendents is really not the result of one or even two people.

“It’s really the result, or failure, of our entire board. It’s a failure to address inappropriate behaviors, a failure to hold people accountable, (and) a failure to focus on our vision and focus. The good news is that we will have four new board members here, a new majority, who are committed to moving this district forward and unencumbered by the past.”

After discussion, the board approved, in a 5-1 vote, to remove the censure placed on Smith. Heinrich was the lone dissenting vote.

Smith ended the Jan. 5 meeting by publicly apologizing to Herrera, stating that she did not intend for the fallout that occurred Nov. 16 to happen this way.

“Believe it or not, I like Dr. Herrera. He’s got a great sense of humor. If you get to know the guy, he’s a good man, but it wasn’t that I didn’t want him here. This community is too much. It’s even too much for me at times, but at the end of the day I didn’t hurt this community. I didn’t sell this community short. I didn’t cost this community money,” Smith said. “Those that resigned that were on this board, they hurt the community, because all it needed was a simple conversation.”

Of a new superintendent, she said, “I want the right superintendent. It doesn’t matter his (or) her ethnicity, or none of the above. I want this district to move forward, she said.

Smith announced she resigned from Oakland Schools board of directors and no longer sits on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. To Heinrich’s comments, she said she believed a six-month censure was “a little steep” without evidence available to substantiate the claims.

 

Filling a board vacancy
Also discussed briefly at the Jan. 5 meeting was the process the board plans to follow to fill a vacant seat left by former Board President Pam Green, who announced her resignation at the Nov. 16 meeting.

Board members plan to interview six community candidates, some of whom originally ran for the Nov. 3 ballot, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 12, after press time.

Candidates will go through a 25-minute interview that includes an introduction and questions from board members, and ends with a concluding statement. The board expects to select and appoint a new member to fill the vacancy and be sworn into the remainder of Green’s term at the Jan. 19 meeting.

The video was streamed live on TV-10 and can be accessed afterward on the district’s website. For more information, visit farmington.k12.mi.us.

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