Paul Hynek is returning to the Saline Area Schools Board of Education.
School board voted 4-2 to elect Hynek to the board at a special meeting Tuesday night. Hynek, one of five people to submit a letter of intent for the vacancy created when Amy Cattell resigned from the board earlier this month, finished third in the November election. Smita Nagpal, who finished fourth in the election, received the other two votes from the board members. Tim Austin, Heidi Pfannes, and Terry Wagner also asked to be considered.
The vote was taken after a failed motion to postpone the vote in favor of interviewing the five candidates.
Hynek was first elected to school board with 41 percent of the vote in a three-person race in 2006. In 2010, he lost his seat to Todd Carter. His new term expires Dec. 31, 2014.
Board members David Holden, Craig Hoeft, David Zimmer and Karen Delhey voted for Hynek. Board members Diane Friese and Todd Carter voted for Nagpal.
Experience, November Election Results a Factor
Several board members cited Hynek’s experience and performance in the November election.
“I think it’s important that we recognize the public vote that took place just 60 or so days ago,” said Delhey, who was Hynek’s running mate in the election. “He brings passion and knowledge. He has kids in the district and brings experience to the board.”
Delhey pointed out the relative inexperience of the board. Of the six members of school board, four have less than 13 months experience.
For Hoeft, the decision came down to experience.
“What I chose to do is replace the experience that left (Cattell) with experience that’s been there (Hynek),” Hoeft said.
“With Paul, we would be getting a former board member, a contributor to the policy committee and someone who can hit the ground running and become a contributing member,” Holden said. “We also have to consider the proximity to the most recent election. We’re two months out. Paul was clearly the third place finisher.”
Hynek finished with 4,886 votes and Nagpal finished with 3,682 votes in November.
Nagpal Offered Unique Skills
Friese backed Nagpal, her running mate in November, citing her experience as a psychologist, counselor and business owner.
“Dr. Nagpal has the kind of insight into human development and human nature that we need on the board,” Friese said.
She pointed to the 55 school shootings in the United States since 1996.
“There are ways to prevent these. Gun control is not an issue for a school board. But support of mental health is something that is within our grasp,” Friese said, noting that Nagpal has done studies on school climate in the district and recommended suggestions that have not yet been implemented.
Carter said he supported adding Nagpal to the board to bring in a diversity of ideas. He noted the board was largely conservative.
“I think we need the alternative point of view and someone who can provide fresh ideas,” Carter said.
Hynek said he was glad to be back on school board.
“I’m excited and ready to get back to work,” Hynek said.
Nagpal said she was disappointed to be passed over. She thanked the board for considering her.
“Congrats to Paul and I wish everyone all the best. The reason why I applied is that I believe in the strength of Saline Area Schools. I believed and still believe I was uniquely qualified for the position in many different ways and I plan to continue to serve the district in any way I can,” Nagpal told the board in public comment after thanking the people who spoke in support of her candidacy.
Speakers Recommended Nagpal for Job in Public Comment
During the public comment session at the outset of the meeting residents Mary Ann Martin and Kathy Shwayder recommended the board appoint Nagpal to the post.
“She’s committed to the community, but she’s also a good thinker and an analytical thinker. Some of the problems the district faces are highly complex. You need to be able to think in a multidisciplinary way,” Shwayder said. “You need someone who is savvy in business but also in education. That’s a pretty tough combination.”
Agreeing On Process
The board began the meeting with President Holden outlining a process for selecting a board member. The process was based on a policy partially based on information from the Michigan Association of School Boards and old board policy. Board members were given a rubric to judge the candidates on five criteria: personal attributes, community engagement, board strength, education knowledge, and the recent school board election results.
Holden also suggested a process for voting for the new member. Holden’s policy had each board member using the rubric to vote for their top candidate after a nomination process. Once a candidate received a majority of the votes, they would be elected trustee.
Trustee Carter suggested an alternate voting method where each board member would rank the candidates. Based on those rankings, the candidate would receive points. The candidate with the most points would be named trustee.
The board chose Holden’s method.
In the nomination process, Delhey nominated Hynek. Friese nominated the other four candidates. With all five candidates nominated, board members began speaking to their top candidate.
Zimmer Recommends Interviews, Motion Fails
When it was Trustee Zimmer’s turn to speak, he suggested the vote be postponed until the board was given a chance to interview candidates.
“We have a candidate (Pfannes) with a tremendous amount of experience. I haven’t talked to her. I’ve done a lot of hiring and I never hire off a resume,” Zimmer said. “When we make a vote, I want it to be an informed, knowledgeable vote.”
“I’d like to ask questions of the other people running. I haven’t heard from them I don’t think we told them to be here tonight,” Friese said.
Holden said scheduling interviews could be problematic because of a compressed schedule. Hoeft said that because board members had already publicly commented on the candidates, he felt it was inappropriate to switch gears and hold interviews.
Zimmer motioned to schedule interviews with the candidates. Zimmer, Friese and Carter voted in favor of the interviews. Holden, Hoeft and Delhey voted against having interviews.
After the vote, trustees filled out their ballots and passed them to Secretary Carter, who read the results aloud. Hynek won by a 4-2 vote.
President Holden congratulated Hynek and thanked the other candidates. Holden encouraged the candidates to stay engaged in the school district and reminded them that the next elections, in 2014, weren’t far away.
Hynek will be sworn in at the Jan. 22 meeting.
Tim Austin Plans to Follow in Footsteps of Great-Grandfather, Grandfather
Candidate Tim Austin, co-owner of A&H Lawncare, said he understood that Hynek and Nagpal were likely frontrunners for the job. But he decided to throw his hat in the ring.
“I’ve got two kids in the district and a long history in Saline. I was a graduate from Saline in 1990. My great-grandfather William was school board president, my grandfather Hugh Austin was school board president. I want to get involved in the schools. It’s an excellent school district,” said Austin, who said he plans to run for election at a later date.
Pfannes and Wagner did not attend the meeting.
SHS Grad Disappointed Board Didn't Intervew Candidates
Recent Saline High School graduate Aaron Mukerjee, son of Nagpal and former student representative on the Board of Education, said he was disappointed that school board voted to make the decision without interviews.
“This was advertised as a public discussion and not as a meeting where the board would be voting on a candidate,” said Mukerkjee, who now studies at Harvard University. “I’ve benefited greatly from this district, which has traditionally made decisions in a calculated and careful manner. It’s disappointing to me that we’re not going to carefully consider every candidate. I would hate to see other students who come after me not benefit in the same way I have.”