Trustee Dennis Valenti Resigns from the Saline Area Schools Board of Education

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The longest-serving trustee on the Saline Board of Education announced his resignation during Tuesday's meeting.

Trustee Dennis Valenti, who has served on the board since 2015, surprised the board with a statement he read during a period for board member remarks.

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"It has been my honor to serve this community for the last six and a half years as Trustee of the Board of Education," Valenti said, his voice wavering at times. "However, as the saying goes, there is a time for all seasons and I believe it is time for me now to step down as Trustee to allow someone else the opportunity to serve."

Valenti, who served as chair of the board's Finance Committee, was elected as the Board's first Treasurer when the position was created in 2021. The terms of Valenti, Kandace Jones and Michael McVey, expire at the end of 2022. Voters will elect three candidates in the November general election.

Valenti s a practicing attorney with the Ann Arbor law firm Conlin, McKenney & Philbrick, P.C.

Valenti, who was past president of the Pittsfield Township Optimist Club and who is a trustee of the Robert F. Redies Foundation and of the Jack Crabtree Tribute Fund, said he would look for a less time-consuming way to continue to serve the community.

"I wish the best to all of you and to my alma mater, but there's a time for all seasons and I believe it's time for me to find some other less time-intensive avenue for me to contribute to my community," Valenti said.

He said he was submitting his resignation at the end of the meeting.

Valenti, a graduate of Saline High School, had been a Trustee of the Foundation for Saline Area Schools for 10 years in 2015 when he was asked to fill a vacancy on the board. He was elected in November of 2016. With his background in law and finance, Valenti said, he believed he could contribute to the board.

Valenti recalled coming to Saline Area Schools as a high school student when his family moved here from an Oakland County suburb. He thanked two of the teachers who helped him through the transition.

"As you can imagine that was a bit of adjustment for me, but it is one that was made much easier with the thanks of two teachers in particular - one, Coach (Jack) Crabtree, and two, Mrs. Cheryl Hoeft. It was their kindness that made me feel that someone cared about me personally," Valenti said. "I mention them because I want to remind all of us and applaud all the educators here, of just how important that teacher-student relationship is, and how it's long-lasting."

His peers on the Board of Education reacted to the news with sadness about Valenti's departure and gratitude for all he's done to help the board and district.

"Personally, I would like to say how much I will miss Trustee Valenti. It has been my pleasure to work with him for three years on the Board, and Finance Committees. I respect his decision, but more importantly I respect him as a person. His contribution to the Board, Foundation for Saline Area Schools, and community has been significant. Thank you, Dennis. I am glad you became my friend," President Jennifer Steben said.

Trustee Brad Gerbe, who is replacing Valenti as Treasurer, said Valenti helped mentor him on the board.

"I obviously want to say my thanks. Dennis, I've learned so much from you. You've taken the time to teach me, you've taken the time to mentor," Gerbe said. "I am a better board member today than I was a year ago because of your tutelage."

Trustee Susan Estep thanked Valenti for always being respectful and professional towards her.

Trustee Jenny Miller said Valenti's presence has been a "steady anchor" for her during her first year on the board.

"I have appreciated the wisdom and knowledge you have shared with us and even when we didn't see eye-to-eye, the conversations we had allowed me to know we were all on the same team with students at the forefront of our mind every day," Miller said.

Trustee Kandace Jones said she appreciated the knowledge and measured approach Valenti brought to the board.

The board will need to decide what to do about the vacancy caused by Valenti's resignation. Steben said she and the board will soon begin working on outlining a process to appoint a Trustee for the remainder of his term. She said she thought it will likely mirror the process the board used to replace Aramide Boatswain when she resigned early in May of 2021 and the board chose Jones as her replacement.

The length of meetings has been a concern among school administrators and some trustees as the board has faced challenging and/or controversial issues, such as the sex education curriculum for some special education students, or the transgender student policy, or general education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes, the meetings are inexplicably long. Last fall, for example, the board went into closed session to evaluate Superintendent Steve Laatsch, and despite a very positive overall review, the board was in closed session for hours.

With Valenti's resignation, Trustee Michael McVey becomes the longest-serving member of the board. He was elected in November of 2016.

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