At the Oct. 12 Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education meeting, the school board voted 6-1 to censure Trustee Cindy Pangborn, right, for violating three board policies in connection with a newspaper ad. Trustee Christopher Lee is pictured at left.

At the Oct. 12 Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education meeting, the school board voted 6-1 to censure Trustee Cindy Pangborn, right, for violating three board policies in connection with a newspaper ad. Trustee Christopher Lee is pictured at left.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

School board votes to censure trustee

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 20, 2020


GROSSE POINTES — Grosse Pointe Public School System Board Of Education President Margaret Weertz called it “a sad day in Grosse Pointe Public Schools.”

At the Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting, the school board voted 6-1 to approve a resolution to censure board Trustee Cindy Pangborn. Pangborn voted against the measure and wanted to know what actions would be taken if she were censured.

“The action is that your censure is on the record, that you’ve been disciplined by the rest of the board members,” Weertz said.

“So it’s a form of embarrassment,” Pangborn said.

“It’s a form of discipline,” Weertz responded.

A censure is essentially an official reprimand of an individual for actions or behaviors deemed in violation of an organization’s policies. The board resolution stemmed from a newspaper advertisement that several board members had discussed in a heated debate at the Sept. 28 school board meeting.

According to the resolution, Pangborn cooperated with a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization in placing a campaign newspaper ad “maligning the district’s high school administrators and schools and (that) intentionally included misleading information.”

Pangborn is running for reelection in the Nov. 3 GPPSS Board of Education election. Fifteen candidates filed to run for four four-year terms; however, one candidate withdrew from the race, bringing the number to 14. In addition, three candidates are running for one partial term ending Dec. 31, 2022.

The resolution stated Pangborn violated board policy No. 1426 by using threatening behavior toward employees; board policy No. 1423 regarding the board’s anti-harassment bylaw; and board policy No. 0144.2 regarding board member ethics. The resolution also stated Pangborn used her board position for personal political gain and compromised the board with her behavior.

The advertisement was paid for by the Taxpayers for GP Schools, which has a post office box address based in Grosse Pointe City. The advertisement lists various problems in the schools and criticized administrators at North and South high schools for lacking leadership.

“I don’t take any pleasure in having to do this,” Weertz said. “We have employees that we must not involve in name-calling in the newspaper. That was demeaning, and we won’t stand for it. I won’t stand for it. I stand for our principals and our staff, and we’ve never had this type of a campaign before. Someone, someone should be held accountable. Someone did meet with the 501(c)(4). Someone gave that, and that’s a sad day.”

The ad also stated, “We have to bring back excellence in our schools!” and “Call the candidates and tell them to protect our children.” Under that the last names of candidates, Pangborn, Nowicki and Papas were listed. Lauren Nowicki and Lisa Papas are among the challengers running for the four-year terms on the board.

“To have an ad like that placed in the paper is so awful. … It’s just so disgusting that anybody would say that about our principals, about our teachers who work so hard in our buildings, about our students,” Treasurer Judy Gafa said.

Trustee Christopher Lee also commented.

“If I saw my name at the bottom of an ad like that with my picture and my name, I would raise holy hell to stop it,” he said.

During the hearing of the public, Pangborn’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, addressed the board. Schwartz said that by looking at the resolution, there does not appear to be any evidence Pangborn engaged in any action involving the Taxpayers for GP Schools publication of advertisements in local media.

“There is no proper foundation for this resolution,” he said, adding that if the board approved it, “You would bring dishonor not only upon yourselves, but also upon the school district.”

‘I had no part in this’
Pangborn said she never placed the ad in the newspaper.

“I didn’t pay for it. The problem is that the accusation never happened. I don’t belong to nor have I cooperated or had any involvement with the no-profit 501(c)(4).

“I had nothing to do with the placement or creation of the advertising in question. I support our teachers, the staff and the administrators at all our buildings who have worked tirelessly to support our students and who have been put in an impossible position by the district administrators,” Pangborn said. “Based on this information, and there is no proof of the accusation, and I would like to call to question.”

Pangborn called the issue “a political show.”

“It has nothing to do with the truth. We’ve had all this discussion and all the berating of me, and you have no proof of any sort that I had anything to do with this,” Pangborn said. “Not one person here has shown anything that said I had anything to do with this.

“I had no part in this. You have all seen the ads that I’ve put out. They are large. They are colorful. They are in detail. They are on door knockers. They are everywhere, and my name is on every one of them,” Pangborn said. “I had nothing to do with authorizing this or placing an ad. That’s the end of the story.”

On Oct. 12, the Grosse Pointe Times received via email three notarized affidavits stating Pangborn is not connected to the Taxpayers for GP Schools nor did she have anything to do with advertising in local media. Pangborn signed one of the documents.

The second affidavit, signed by Grosse Pointe Woods resident Monica Palmer, stated Palmer is a Taxpayers for GP Schools member and that Pangborn had nothing to do with the advertisement. Palmer is spearheading an effort to recall Lee and Weertz.

The third affidavit, signed by John Barlow, of the Barlow Group Adv. LLC in St. Clair Shores, indicated Pangborn had nothing to do with the advertisement.

“I was involved in the creation and placement of advertising for Taxpayers for GP Schools, and I was fully aware of all those who had any role for Taxpayers for GP Schools in connection with advertising in newspapers or other media, including post cards through the United States Postal Service,” Barlow’s affidavit stated.

At last week’s meeting, both Papas and Nowicki commented during the hearing of the public. Papas said she “is currently teaching right now.”

“If anyone understands what the concerns and challenges of our teachers are, it would be me,” she said. “I was on the committee that selected Rodger Hunwick as principal of Brownell; a finer principal, you will not find anywhere.

“I completely support our wonderful teachers and our district administrators. Many of them are also parents in our schools. They have a big stake in the success of our district,” Papas said.

“This is not my ad. The group that published this ad solicited information from me as a candidate for the Grosse Pointe School Board of Education, and I shared my platform and photo with them,” Nowicki said. “As a former teacher, I fully support our teachers and cannot even begin to understand the hardships that they’re enduring right now. I advocate for them every day. I cannot control what is printed in a third-party ad.”