Once again, the Board of Education is the center of attention in Howell. After initially deciding on February 11 to split the high school student population and have nearly 2,000 students attend Howell High and only about 650 attend the newly opened Parker High, they changed their vote on February 25 to adopt a new resolution that was not one of the original seven that the Board considered: “Option 8”. However, they left their vice president out of the vote and that has caused the tensions that are plaguing the Board.
Because she was attending her father-in-law’s funeral, Vice President Jeannine Pratt was not present to vote on Option 8. Rather than postponing the vote, as was suggested by Trustee Michael Yenshaw, the Board voted 4 – 2 to adopt Option 8.
Under Option 8, the freshman class will attend Parker High while grades 10 – 12 attend Howell High, which is undergoing renovations this year. From there, incoming freshman will attend either Howell High or Parker High, depending upon their geographic location within the Howell School District.
“We were originally offered a “target date” of February 11 for the final decision,” said Yenshaw. “That original decision was a debate between Option #2 and Option #3, with Option #2 passing.”
Although the Board plans to remain with Option 8 as their final resolution, Yenshaw still believes that Option 2 will bring them to their ultimate goal faster.
“My feeling about Option 8 compared to Option 2 is that Option 2 would lead us to our intended goal of operating two 9-12 high school buildings,” he stated.
After Yenshaw suggested waiting on the vote, he was informed by another Board member that there were already enough votes in favor of the change to move ahead without Pratt’s input or vote on the topic.
“I wasn’t surprised by the vote without Mrs. Pratt because it only takes a majority of a quorum to pass a motion,” said Yenshaw. “My reasoning for postponing the motion was that this was one of the most critical issues that the Board has faced in recent times.”
Evidently, Pratt felt the same way.
After learning that the Board voted without her, Pratt sent an e-mail to the other members, voicing her disapproval that she was not included in the discussion and approval of a resolution that was not one of the seven that were discussed at the February 11 meeting.
At the March 10 Board of Education meeting, Pratt shared the e-mail with the public.
“Your actions two weeks ago were disrespectful to all the people we represent,” she read. “I think your vote was a direct slap in the face, not only to me, but to our administration and staff who worked hard on these options, and those in particular who participated in the community conversations.”
The community conversations Pratt referred to were a series of special Board of Education meetings in which the public shared their opinion on which option they felt would be best for the school district.
President Phil Westmoreland attempted to make light of the situation when he asked if it was “time for a group hug”, but Pratt showed that she was not amused when she said a quick “no” in response.
According to an article published in the Livingston County Press & Argus, Pratt “acknowledged that not all board members will agree all the time, but she said everyone should have been a part of the process”.
“We owe it to this community and district as a whole to … work as team,” she said, still reading from her e-mail.
Pratt’s disapproval of the situation has not affected the way the other council members feel.
Board member Edwin Literski said that he was sorry that Pratt’s “feelings were hurt”, but that he would make the same decision again if he had the option to.
Although tensions on the Board are subsiding, Yenshaw believes that some of the tension could have been avoided before the voting even began.
“Since cost is seeming to be the overriding concern at present when making decisions, maybe the administration should have presented the board with fewer, more feasible options that were more pointed in the direction the school district should go,” he said.
He also commented that he has learned that it is impossible to satisfy everyone’s wishes when taking on the daunting task of opening a second high school, but he feels that the Board is doing the best that they can.
“I believe the HPS-Board of Education is committed to working together in the best interest of the school district.”