During a special meeting of the board on the eve of holiday break, the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education approved Stefanie Hayes as its new director of special education services, despite criticisms of inexperience and lack of financial knowledge.
“I think we need someone with experience, who’s been a director, who has a proven record as a full administrator, who can come in and be forceful, and the piece about the finance is of very deep concern to me, for a director to admit that she does not have that piece maybe as much as she should,” trustee, Cindy Pangborn, said of Hayes, currently the ASD special education supervisor of Birmingham Public Schools.
“It deeply concerns me we are under-hiring for this position,” added Lois Valente, board vice president who, with Pangborn, was a dissenting vote in the 5-2 result.
Hayes rose as the best option, the only option, of a candidate pool that Jon Dean, deputy superintendent of education services, considered the best he’s experienced in his brief history of searches for a special education director. He conducted two previous searches while in Birmingham Public Schools.
“We believe that Stefanie Hayes can do a very excellent job in this position,” Dean said, acknowledging he, superintendent, Tom Harwood, and others involved in the month-long process were “mindful” of candidates’ levels of directorial experience and financial knowledgebase.
And while those traits factored into the decision, Dean said, ultimately, the primary task of a special education director is to ensure quality programming for students and to work closely and develop a relationship with staff, parents and fellow administrators.
“We know she can do those things,” he said.
Hayes graduated with degrees in education and psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy. She is the district’s sixth director in eight years; her predecessor, Deb Jackson, announced in November her decision to resign from the position after serving for about two years.
“I really want her to have the support she’s going to need coming into this job because it’s not going to be easy walking in that door, and we all have to be there to help her with that job,” said Judy Gafa, board president.