East Detroit school board fills vacancy

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 19, 2014

East Detroit board splits on schools of choice

EASTPOINTE — The East Detroit school board, with a 5-1 vote, approved a proposal to allow students from other communities in the Macomb Intermediate School District to go to its schools, but the board did not vote to allow students from adjacent ISDs to come, as well.

The school board was split 3-3 on its vote to allow adjacent ISD students to come to East Detroit across all grades. Board member Jon S. Gruenberg proposed that the school should only allow those students to come in if they are in elementary school or in the alternative high school program. His compromise proposal failed 3-3, as well.

Both proposals were included in the district’s deficit reduction plan.

EASTPOINTE — The East Detroit Board of Education appointed Charley Jackson Jr. to fill its empty seat, breaking a series of stalemate votes between him and another candidate.

Jackson and Charisse Lowther-Sanders had the support of three board members each, but Treasurer Jon G. Gruenberg changed his vote to Jackson near the end of the meeting to avoid sending the matter to the Macomb Intermediate School District for a decision.

“If we could have all four (candidates) to fill the spot, I would do that, but to make a compromise, I think Mr. Jackson did an excellent job,” he said.

The two other candidates interviewed, Karren Borsa and James Moses, did not garner any votes, though board President Craig Wodecki encouraged the three that were not chosen to run for office in the next board election in the fall.

Each candidate was asked six identical questions by the board members, who then conferred and voted. The questions addressed what they felt the role of the board was, if they could disagree but not hold a grudge, what issues they felt needed to be addressed in the district, how they would handle an irate parent and if they can handle the time needed for the position.

Jackson said he felt that the school board has a large role in managing the finances of the district and handling the expectations of the administrators, such as the superintendent.

“The way I see the board is as board of directors in a corporation,” Jackson said. “They’re responsible for the long-term planning of the district and controlling (expectations of) the chief executive, the superintendent.”

Jackson said the district is facing financial issues with its deficit that it is still working to overcome next year, and a perception and reputation that are “unfair and unjust.”

He added that he spent a lot of time thinking and praying on whether or not to apply for the opening, knowing full well the time commitment it requires, and decided that he wants to help find solutions for the district and be a positive role model to the students.

Secretary Jon S. Gruenberg said he was “disturbed” by the three stalemated votes on the issue, as well as another stalemate on a vote to opt-in to the school of choice program for the next school year. He said he did not like taking the new-member decision out of the hands of the board.

“I don’t like the idea of someone appointing someone to the board for us. I don’t like that being taken out of our hands,” he said. “We do need to show to the community that we do have the ability to compromise as a board.”

The secretary put forth one of two motions for school of choice — which is budgeted for the district’s deficit elimination plan — and tied it to appointing Lowther-Sanders, but it failed. Wodecki said he did not like the idea of tying a vote on the district’s state-approved budget to filling a vacancy.

Earlier, the school board passed one motion regarding school of choice.