Ferndale school board looking to fill seat by early January

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published December 14, 2015


FERNDALE — Following the November election of Raylon Leaks-May to the Ferndale City Council, the Ferndale School District is looking to fill Leaks-May’s vacant board seat by early January.

Leaks-May’s four-year term was set to end at the conclusion of 2016, with the school board election to be held in November 2016, and state law would allow Leaks-May to remain on the school board while also serving on the City Council.

Following this November’s election, however, Leaks-May, who is the current school board treasurer, said she felt it was time for her to move on to the new challenge of serving the city and let someone else take over on the school board. She will remain on the school board through the end of 2015.

Because of the decision, board President Jim O’Donnell said the board will be accepting applications to fill Leaks-May’s seat for the remainder of her term through Dec. 21 and will look to fill the seat during the Jan. 4 organizational meeting.

While the selected candidate will not be required to run for a full term next November, O’Donnell said it will be something the board will be looking for in a successful candidate.

“There will be two seats up in November 2016, including Raylon’s old seat, and it will be up to the candidate if they want to run for the full six-year term,” he said. “That is usually one of the questions that board members ask during the interview process, because we would want a person to stick around for more than a year.”

Applications can be filled out online or by contacting the school district through 4 p.m. Dec. 21. The six board members will then interview applicants at 6 p.m. Jan. 4 before the organizational meeting with the hope of selecting a candidate who will start immediately, O’Donnell said.

The board went through a similar process when former board member Chuck Moeser resigned in 2013; the board then selected Jennifer LaTosch to fill the seat. LaTosch was formally elected in November 2014 and currently serves as the board’s vice president.

As for what the school board is looking for, O’Donnell said they want a candidate who has the best interest of the community and students at heart.

“We want someone who makes decisions in the best interest of all the students in the school district and also for the community at large,” he said. “We want somebody that understands the governance role the school board has, from things like defining the vision and strategies to hiring and overseeing the superintendent and overseeing the budget.”

In the job description, the district states that the school board clarifies the district’s purpose, connects with the community and monitors the performance of the district.

Because of the diverse role a board member plays, Superintendent Blake Prewitt said the district will look for a candidate who can help contribute to one or several of those roles.

“You want people on the school board to have a vision of what the district should be in five years or 10 years and is really looking at the future,” he said. “Someone who has a background in the areas the board deals with — the largest being finance — is huge, as the board is responsible for the adoption of the budget.”

With the school board overseeing Prewitt and his role, he understands the importance of the role the school board members play and feels they represent what the community as a whole hopes to see in the district.

“The school board is an elected body, so they are the voice of the community,” he said. “It is a system that is done all around the country, and our board really listens to the community and does what is best for the kids in our school district. The school board is an important piece in our overall educational system.”

While the school board holds monthly board meetings, O’Donnell said the role of the board member goes beyond just the boardroom. Board members regularly attend sporting and other school events and community happenings throughout the Ferndale School District community, which includes most of Ferndale, all of Pleasant Ridge, and parts of Royal Oak Township and Oak Park.

“One of the important duties of a school board member is to be active in the school community and have a good sense of what is going on,” O’Donnell said. “We want to have good relationships with the municipal leaders, with the nonprofit leaders and other people in the community. And the best part is we get to go to graduation every spring and see every student come across the stage.”

For more information on the Board of Education opening, or to apply, visit www.ferndaleschools.org/district/board/join.