Ferndale school board selects new board member to fill vacant seat

Jennifer LaTosch named first female board president

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published January 13, 2016


FERNDALE — Pleasant Ridge resident and Ferndale School District parent Jackie Hart was named the newest Ferndale Board of Education trustee Jan. 4 after a selection process following the departure of former Trustee Raylon Leaks-May.

Leaks-May was elected in November to the Ferndale City Council, and despite state law allowing her to serve on both the council and school board, she stepped down at the end of 2015. 

Hart will complete Leaks-May’s four-year term, set to end at the end of this year, and the seat will be up for grabs during the November 2016 election.

“I do have two children in the district, and I want to ensure that not only they have what they need to be successful, but everyone has an equal opportunity,” Hart said. “All children eventually become citizens not only in the Ferndale community, but the global community, and I want to help make sure they are productive citizens as they get out into the world and the workforce.”

Having lived in the Ferndale School District for five years, Hart has been involved with parent-teacher organizations on all levels, as well as helped students and families at camps and art fairs. She has also worked with the Ferndale Education Foundation and helped with numerous communications within the district.

Hart is a communications specialist and works with employees to help them understand system and IT applications. In the past, she has worked as a technical writer.

With a skill set in communications, Hart said she feels she can bring something new to the board.

“I think (with) my communications skills as a technical writer and documentation person, I am able to discern information and determine what is actually accurate and valid,” she said. “I have done a lot of research in my career to understand certain things, and I have skills in listening, and I think getting all points of view will be helpful for the board.”

During the Jan. 4 board meeting, Trustee Jennifer LaTosch was named the new board president, taking over the role from fellow Trustee Jim O’Donnell.

LaTosch is not only the new board president, but she is the first female board president, a fact that both excites and surprises her.

“I am a little surprised there has not been (a female board president) until 2016, but I am honored and excited,” she said. “(The board) tries to ensure a lot of different individuals take different seats and roles at the table. My background is as a family law attorney, so with that litigation experience and family experience, I think I have a good voice to help with concerned parents so that every possible kid has an environment they can learn and feel safe in.”

The school board made an announcement in December of Leaks-May’s plans to step down from the board and accepted applications through late December for the position. The board ended up interviewing five candidates during the Jan. 4 meeting and selected Hart that very same night.

LaTosch said it was clear that Hart would bring a plethora of knowledge from several different points of view and is excited to get the chance to work with her.

“From the beginning, she was clear on her passion for the district, as she has been a volunteer over the years and has two children in the district right now,” she said. “She is very involved within the schools and the community, and wants to make sure individuals who feel underrepresented or not heard know all the resources available to them.”

As the school district continues its restructuring over the next year, Hart said she feels she can help in the process as a parent of two students at different grade levels. She also feels her communications background can help bring everyone to the table who may have a concern about changes or underrepresentation.

“I want to help improve relationships between some groups in the community who may not have always felt they have had the board’s ear; primarily, the parents of special-needs students and African-American students,” she said. “Any ongoing concerns or problems in the past they felt weren’t addressed, I want to get everyone feeling they are moving forward with the district.”