March 20, 2014THE GROSSE POINTES — Thomas Harwood will remain as superintendent of the Grosse Pointe Public School System for at least one more year.
The Board of Education, meeting in a workshop session on Monday night, took no action on Harwood's contract, which effectively allows him to remain in the position until June 2015. According to terms of his contract, if the Board was not going to keep him in place for another year, he had to be notified by March 30.
However, the extension did not come with a ringing endorsement of Harwood. In fact, much of the discussion centered on the process of selecting a new superintendent.
"I believe we should extend it one more year," said board president Joan Dindoffer. "Compensation would remain the same, and his merit pay, currently set at $3,500, would be based on the ratings he receives during the annual review process."
Harwood is to be reviewed in July, and again by Dec. 31.
Board member Dan Roeske agreed.
"I've been weighing this decision for some time," he said. "My concern is that with the retirement of Gary Buslepp from Pierce and Matt Outlaw from South (see story, page 3A), we need to have a continuity of institutional management for a period of time. Let's see if Dr. Harwood can't hit it out of the park."
Board member Lois Valente disagreed.
"If we are going to offer another year, it does a disservice to a community that is already divided," she said. "How does renewing for another year help us to heal?"
Valente urged the board to begin a search for a new superintendent immediately, and to fill Harwood's position with an interim superintendent.
Board member Cindy Pangborn did not think filling Harwood's position with an interim appointment was in the best interests of the district, likening such a move to having a substitute teacher.
"They don't know the fight, they don't know the problems," she said. "They aren't involved in solutions. We have to tell the community that we have righted our wrongs."
At issue, some feel, are some missteps by Harwood during his tenure, including problems with a visit to the district by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and issues with a coach at Grosse Pointe South. A major issue seen by many was the defeat last month by the voters of a $50 million technology bond endorsed by Harwood.
However, board member Brian Summerfield felt many good things have happened on Harwood's watch.
"I've been approached by many in the community, including teachers and staffs, and I have listened to their comments," he said. "We've had our first balanced budget in five years. Our MEAP scores are holding, we had the teacher of the year. All contracts have been renewed and professional development has risen to whole new level under Dr. Harwood. I'd like to see a highly effective superintendent in the district, and a one year contract would give us a chance to measure Dr. Harwood."
Board member Judy Gafa approved giving Harwood another year, but cautioned the board to study closely Harwood's upcoming performance reviews.
"There is a divide in the community on Dr. Harwood, and I've heard from both sides," she said. "We are going to know once these reviews are done. If we don't know where we are headed in December, we should be voted out."