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School board chooses new member

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 21, 2020

 After being appointed to the Grosse Pointe Public School System  Board of Education Jan. 17, new board member Joseph Herd, right, talks  with Director of Pre-K and Elementary Instruction Keith Howell  and Director of Secondary Instruction Maureen Bur.

After being appointed to the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education Jan. 17, new board member Joseph Herd, right, talks with Director of Pre-K and Elementary Instruction Keith Howell and Director of Secondary Instruction Maureen Bur.

Photo by Maria Allard

GROSSE POINTES — When Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education President Brian Summerfield resigned from his position Jan. 2, the search for a replacement began immediately.

Sixteen residents submitted applications to be considered to fill the vacancy. During a special meeting Jan. 17 inside the Brownell Middle School multipurpose room, the school board voted 6-0 to appoint Joseph Herd to the board. Interviews for the position were conducted Jan. 16 at Brownell.

Herd, 58, was present during the meeting. The father of three resides in Grosse Pointe Woods with his wife, Verlona Herd.

“I’m glad I was selected. I’m honored by being chosen,” Joseph Herd said. “I am looking forward to learning and doing the best I can for the children of Grosse Pointe. They deserve the best we have.”

Herd will hold office until the next regular school election in November. Summerfield’s term was to expire Dec. 31, 2022. Summerfield, an attorney, stepped down to spend more time with his family and in his profession.

Herd is so pleased with the education his children have received in Grosse Pointe that he wanted to give back by serving on the board. When he learned there was an opening on the school board, he submitted a letter of interest.

Herd’s daughter attends Brownell, and his two sons are graduates of Grosse Pointe North High School, where they played basketball and were involved in track and cross country.

“They received an excellent education,” Herd said, adding that all three of his children have been on the honor roll. “This school system has really benefited my family. I just wanted to give back.”

Herd served on the selection committees for both the North principal and the athletic director. He said that while growing up “education had been extremely important to my family. That was stressed to me in our home.”

According to his Board of Education application, Herd holds a criminal justice degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. He is a probation officer with the United States Probation Office, Eastern District of Michigan.

During last Friday’s meeting, the board members announced their top three candidates. Herd was on everyone’s list and was appointed unanimously to the board.

“We want to thank all of the candidates who applied,” Board President Margaret Weertz said. “I really appreciate all the work they’ve done to get here.”

Trustee Christopher Lee encouraged the other candidates to run for school board this November. Five seats will be open.

“We can fill a whole board just with the people who were here last night,” he said, referring to the Thursday night interviews. “I really think the board is a team. We all have to all work together. We all have our roles. We need to bring new things to the table.”

While 16 residents submitted letters of interest to be considered for the position, only 13 attended the interviews last week. The League of Women Voters-Grosse Pointe moderated interviews. The candidates answered several questions before the school board members, who sat in the audience. One question was, “What is the role of a Board of Education trustee?”

“The role of a trustee as I understand it is to set policy for the district, to establish a vision and then to hire a superintendent to carry out that vision,” Herd said. “If there are questions about what’s going on, then we raise those questions, and we raise them in a way they can be heard. It’s in the interest of our community. It’s in the interest of our children. It’s in the interest of the parents as well. That’s what I see is the role of a board member.”

The candidates also were asked about how they would address declining enrollment.

“In terms of declining enrollment, I think there are some real facts in terms of just numbers. I don’t know if you necessarily can do anything about the number of people who are born here, but I think you can do something about marketing what we have going, out into the communities,” Herd said. “There’s the perception that it’s extremely expensive to live here. It’s not the cheapest place to live, but if you consider how much it costs to live in other places for the quality of what they receive verses here, I think some marketing could be done that could bring some people here in terms of helping to increase our enrollment.”

“What is your definition of fiduciary responsibility?” was another question asked to the candidates.

“Fiduciary responsibility is making the best out of the dollars that you have. Not only for just now, but making sure that those dollars address the future as well, and that you’re realistic about it,” Herd said. “And at the end of the day, you have to deal with what’s before you, not pie in the sky. You have to make real hard decisions so that when everyone comes around, they can be satisfied with the fact that you really did do the best with what you had.”