Harwood chosen as new superintendent

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 20, 2011

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GROSSE POINTES — While the Grosse Pointe Public School System board considered superintendent candidates from out of state, the body ended up sticking with a candidate a lot closer to home.

After a couple of rounds of interviews, community receptions and narrowing the field from five semi-finalists down to three and then one, the board voted 4-3 for Grosse Pointe schools Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Thomas Harwood as the finalist for the incoming superintendent position.

If the rest of the process goes smoothly, Harwood will replace current Superintendent Suzanne Klein, who announced earlier this year that she would be retiring at the end of this most recent school year. He was the only candidate from GPPSS in the top five.

“It is our most important job as board members,” Board President John Steininger said of filling the district’s top post. “Every board member will work diligently to make the transition a successful one. The incoming superintendent, the public, and most importantly, our most precious resource, the students, deserve nothing less than our best efforts.”

Following the July 12 meeting, the district needed to complete a comprehensive background check and negotiate salary with the finalist, according to district information. The board planned to make the official vote on the appointment during its July 25 meeting.

The district conducted a national search for a new superintendent with the help of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates; two of the top five were administrators in schools in Pennsylvania.

Harwood was ultimately chosen from a field of three that was interviewed on July 11 and 12 before the board made the decision on July 12. The district involved the community throughout the process by providing opportunities to meet the candidates and submit questions for the top-three candidates.

The other two final candidates were Richard Machesky, assistant superintendent for secondary education for the Troy School District, and Michael Jon Dean, assistant superintendent for human resources in Birmingham Public Schools.

Board Trustee Thomas Jakubiec praised all three of the candidates who made it to the last interviews.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of potential change coming in our district, and I think (Harwood’s) background in human resources and his background with the contract and probably more importantly his history in the district is going to allow our district to move forward without making miscues or missteps that will hurt the learning experience for our kids.”

Board Trustee Cindy Pangborn referred to Harwood as someone who is “an integral part of our system” and someone who “has done some things that … prove his integrity, his strength of character and his willingness to do right regardless.”

Board officials praised his negotiating techniques with employee groups and his other accomplishments.

“I personally don’t believe in change for the sake of change,” Steininger said before voting in favor of Harwood. “We are striving right now, and we are successful. To bring in someone else, there’s going to be a learning curve, and while I’m not saying it’s insurmountable, I’m saying we have to hit the ground running here.

“I believe Mr. Harwood is the best candidate to help us move forward,” he said.

Board Treasurer Brendan Walsh, Secretary Judy Gafa and Trustee Fred Minturn voted against the decision to make Harwood the final pick.

”I was uniquely excited to hear the new views from at least one of the candidates that we interviewed extensively,” Minturn said about another candidate. “I had a very fresh feeling of leadership and insight and experience.”

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