Grosse Pointe Superintendent Speaks, as Parent, to Rochester Board

'You failed,' said Thomas Harwood, who was a candidate for the Rochester Schools superintendent position when Fred Clarke was hired last year.

The leader of Grosse Pointe Public Schools who interviewed last year for the Rochester superintendent job criticized Board of Education members this week for being "maverick and dismissive" in their search last year for a school leader.

"You failed," said Thomas Harwood repeatedly in his three minutes of public comment at the start of the board meeting Monday night. Harwood lives in Rochester Hills and said he was speaking to the board as a parent. 

Rochester Superintendent Fred Clarke listened quietly as Harwood addressed the board. Clarke announced . He has not resigned and did not respond to Harwood or say anything related to his job search on Monday night. 

Harwood said he did not "wish ill will toward Mr. Clarke." And though he was one of six finalists for the job last year, Harwood also noted that he is not interested in Clarke's job. 

"I have been blessed with the opportunity to be the superintendent of schools for the Grosse Pointe school system and I have no intention of seeking to leave the position at this time," he said.

Instead, he criticized board members for not doing their "due diligence" in listening to the needs of the community during the superintendent search.

"You became maverick and dismissive in your decision-making process without a true eye on the future needs of this educational community," he said.

"As Stephen Covey was quoted as saying, 'You can't talk yourself out of something you behaved yourself into.' 

"Your conduct during this defining moment of time did not meet the expectation that is placed before you with what is one of the two primary responsibilities that you have as elected members of the school board."

"Your role in this process is critical and needs to be considered at a higher level than what has been shown in the past. You failed to use a compass that you were given by this community to set sail on a journey that will continue on the success of this district."

Board members did not respond to Harwood's remarks. When Board President Jennifer Berwick thanked "Mr." Harwood for his comments, he corrected her, noting "Dr."

Harwood was the only member of the public to address the board about their inevitable superintendent search. 

Following the news of Clarke's job search last month, the to work with Clarke on a timeline for when he will finish up his duties in Rochester. The search firm that helped find Clarke has said it will help find Clarke's replacement at no charge.

Clarke was a finalist for a superintendent ; he was not hired for that job. 

Clara T August 14, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Bravo, Dr. Harwood! Demonstrating a refreshing, level-headed clarity, Harwood nailed the simple truth that Rochester's perpetually dismissive school board has once again failed to exercise due diligence in serving the students and the community which it was elected to serve. MEA/REA leadership has exercised too much Rochester school board control for far too long. Time for an overhaul that puts students first. Rochester's loss is Grosse Pointe's very fortunate gain.
a worker August 14, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Due dilligence.... ask the UCS BOE about due dilligence. They wouldn't know what that was if it bit them on the ankle. They (along with the superintendent's help) invited a bunch of total strangers into yours
a worker August 14, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Continued... into you children's schools to do the cleaning work. Even after many of you voiced oposition to the idea. Now take a look at what you've got. The UCA BOE and Dr Johns has demonstrated an inability to keep your children safe while at the same time keeping the schools clean. At UCS... It's time for a change.... It's time for a recall. GOOGLE.... GCA CUSTODIAL SEX CRIMES.. THEN TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK. BY THE WAY GCA IS THE NEW CLEANING COMPANY FOR ALL UCA SCHOOLS
M.M. August 14, 2012 at 06:42 PM
how is that working out? Have you noticed a difference? I would think there are more politics in the private sector?
M.M. August 14, 2012 at 06:46 PM
yep- along with cutting all the elementary counselors and lot of title 1 support. They DO NOT listen, one even said at a very crowded board meeting " I don't have time to visit the schools and see what you do" in regards to job cuts in April. Totally UNACCEPTABLE for an elected BOE member whose job is to listen to the community. All we can say is future election!!! Thats where it counts.
Clara T August 14, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Unfortunately, we have a long wait ahead of us. Rochester's school board trustees are enthroned for SIX long years. The next election is in 2014. Current terms expire as follows: Jennifer Berwick, President - Term Expires: Dec. 2016 Beth Talbert, Vice President - Term Expires: Dec. 2018 Chuck Coutteau, Secretary - Term Expires: Dec. 2014 Lisa Nowak, Treasurer - Term Expires: Dec., 2014 Gerald Moore, Trustee - Term Expires: Dec., 2016 Pat Piskulich, Trustee - Term Expires: Dec., 2018 Jane Pierobon, Trustee - Term Expires: Dec., 2018
M.M. August 14, 2012 at 07:06 PM
ok thanks- we will remember this in 2014
Debra Hibbeln August 14, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Would you tell us which of the board members treated a student in this way? I think this is something that the community, and other parents, need to know.
Oakland Twp Resident August 14, 2012 at 08:44 PM
It does sound like UCS! scary! The community wanted someone who 'knew this community, the needs, wants, etc'. He knew nothing and had a horrible track record previous to joining Rochester. He was a bad hire and there were at least 2 (Harwood and Machesky) far better candidates that the board let go. Shame on them. I have to wonder the influence of the company that was hired to assist with this hire. What were their motives (one of the people in charge- Carol Klenow- is a board member of UCS) makes you wonder.....
Kristin Bull (Editor) August 14, 2012 at 09:02 PM
UCS? Is that Utica Community Schools? Just wondering what the connection is to this story ...
M.M. August 14, 2012 at 09:15 PM
yep- as JPS said "one of the people in charge- Carol Klenow- is a board member of UCS" in regards to the super. search
Walter Creamer August 15, 2012 at 01:00 AM
After viewing the BOE meeting held last evening I thought I would offer some of my expertise in the field of hiring Executives and how under the best intentions the process can be flawed. I am sure the BOE did not intentionally hire the “Wrong Guy” for the job in your district. Human being the key word and elected being the second most important word will make the difficult task appear even more daunting. These seven individuals who I do not know were well aware they were operating under a microscope, and I’m sure did not intentionally want harm done to RCS. I attended all of the interviews and from what I saw Mr. Clarke appeared to have all the right. The final three selected were the same I had on my score sheet after the first round. Sitting back now and shooting arrows is counterproductive for our schools and our community.
Walter Creamer August 15, 2012 at 01:01 AM
As in many of the cases I have worked on the naysayers are either bitter from being overlooked or just simply naysayers because of personal agendas. They are much more harmful to our system then an unfortunate hire. Stirring the negative pot will do much harm in acquiring good candidates in the future. Private enterprise makes many hiring missteps and works hard to correct them, often without so many “Thumbs in the pie” so to speak. Public Schools seem to be the dartboard as of late and arrows are being shot from every direction. While those questioning may think they are helping they need to find a more positive way to do so. Leave private agendas and political views out of the discussions. Let the Board do their job and offer good suggestions that are in the best interest of the students and school community. Always ask fair questions and wait for answers that are reasonable for all concerned. If there is information being hidden first find out if it is being withheld because of legal reasons. In many cases the employer would love to tell the real reasons for not accepting certain candidates but could risk legal litigation.
Walter Creamer August 15, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Mr. Harwood certainly had the right as a parent to speak but struck out on two counts. One being he should have only identified himself as a parent and not the Superintendent of another district. Second, he should not have intimated he didn’t want the job because he did, and applied for it a year ago. If he were my client I would have advised against those two major errors. He too is a public figure and must be held up to the same rules as the Board he chastised.
Rochester Hills Resident August 15, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Harwood makes very vaild points that many residents questioned during the time Superintendent Clarke was hired. This is my question and I post this because I really don't know the answer - can the board or the school district move forward and terminate so a new superintendent can be hired?? I am not sure what is in the contract or what is legally allowed at this point but perhaps it is just me but wouldn't that make sense?? I think at some level there is a conflict of interest if the school year begins and we have a leader who may have to wait an entire school year for the possibility of finding a new position. I want someone committed leading our children's education.
Joshua Raymond August 15, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Dr. Harwood is well-known to the board and administration as the current superintendent of Grosse Pointe Schools. Why should he not identify himself as such? For those who do not know who he is, this helps them to understand his perspective. He does not currently want the job. When he interviewed, he was the assistant superintendent of Grosse Pointe Schools. Since that time, he has been appointed by their board to be superintendent. He seems to be very satisfied in his current position. Dr. Harwood only wants what is best for this district. He invited members of the RCS administration and my group, Rochester SAGE, to tour Grosse Pointe's magnet gifted classrooms. He is very willing to present to our BOE how their magnet gifted classrooms actually save his district money by attracting students who would have attended private schools.
Joshua Raymond August 15, 2012 at 01:30 AM
You can view his contract at http://media.rochester.k12.mi.us/download/116041 From the contract: "The District shall be entitled to terminate the Superintendent's employment at any time during the term of this Agreement without further obligation or liability to the Superintendent for salary, remuneration or fringe benefits, for just cause. "Just cause" shall specifically include, but not be limited to, actions or omissions of the Superintendent that constitute moral turpitude, misconduct, dishonest, fraud, insubordination, incompetence, material breaches of the terms and conditions of the Agreement, and/or conviction for offenses involving impairment or illegal possession related to drugs or alcohol."
doug August 15, 2012 at 04:11 AM
M.M.: I can only speak from my own experience. For us, the private school experience was fantastic. The kids did great academically and the overall atmoshere was a very supportive one. It would be easy to say that it was far superior to the public school experience. That said, I am the first to admit, that it is much easier to run a private school. You get to choose the kids who attend. Troublemakers are bounced quickly, and you don't have all the politically correct mandates the public schools are forced to adopt. For those reasons and others, they can manage at 2/3 the cost. I am not sure I support vouchers, but they have gone to far in the name of political correctness.
Rochester Hills Resident August 15, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Thank you Joshua for providing me this information - While I do not have a legal background, I would assume 'just cause' does not include conducting a job search. We are at such a critical time in public education in MI and in this economy and I just feel that we have not had committed leadership in RCS for a while now (the time period where the previous Superintendent was still in before leaving and this past school year) and I really wish we could start this school year with a leader who has intentions to stay for awhile. I certainly have nothing against Mr. Clarke at all and wish him well but I would assume if he does not find a new position before the year starts that his next opportunity might not be until next summer???
Talia Bogoniewski August 15, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Paul - that is not the point, but since you focused on the 'Dr.' vs. 'Mr.': this is his surname, by profession and by standard. I don't appreciate being called 'Mrs.' .......when I am functioning in the capacity of my profession, where I have earned a doctorate degree. The bigger issue is the Rochester Board not doing their due diligence in finding the best COMMITTED candidate for the job.
Mike Reno August 15, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Public schools are "the dartboard" specifically because of these sorts of decisions. I don't understand how you can feel that he had "the right stuff". He came from a district that was the approximately the size of North Hill -- just one of our 13 elementary buildings. The demographics could not be more different. And the achievement levels are polar opposite: Rochester is top 5%, while Albion was bottom 5%. Furthermore, Albion was labeled as "failing", which requires the district to submit an improvement plan to the state. The one Clarke submitted was rejected. Albion's budget is something like $10 million... Rochester was spending $160 million (while taking in $150 million). The skills required to lead an organization the size of Rochester are substantially different than Albion. The work environment is different. The pace is different. And while all of the other candidates were coming from smaller districts... a move to Rochester would've been an incremental step up, not a leapfrog. (Except for the candidate from Imlay city, who was also an inappropriate fit.) The board did go "mavick", but not in a good way; they did it in a bizarre way. Perhaps one could overlook the light resume if he had offered some sort of dynamic ideas. He did a good job of describing a buzzword-laden vision, but nothing innovative. What has this board done that would deserve a "leave'em alone and let'em do their job" approach? If anything, we need to watch closer.
Clara T August 15, 2012 at 03:11 PM
In the interest of minimizing further negative impact to the district from the board's poor choice, perhaps a temporary reorganization at the top should be considered for the upcoming school year. Geraldine Moore has been with the district long enough to know the ropes, is favored by some to become its superintendent and was viewed favorably enough by the board to have made it to the final round of three during the 2011 search. Why not appoint Moore to the top slot temporarily, with Mr. Clarke serving as assistant (while he and the district explore their respective options)? The added benefit would be a trial run for Mrs. Moore, which would also be less disruptive to the district than having an administrative novice at the helm who is simultaneously looking for work elsewhere. Not ideal, yet less of a mess.
Mike Reno August 15, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Now THAT is a innovative idea Clara!
Walter Creamer August 15, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Mr. Reno, sorry my words were cut off, I was remarking that Mr. Clarke appeared to have all of the right answers. I know that does not mean he can execute what he speaks. On the public contact side with no insider info his interview came off reasonably well. He was not my choice but I felt on first glacé he deserved to be in final three. Not sure why the board did not stick with their internal candidate, maybe they were afraid the public would feel they didn't searched for something better. Often that type of thinking works against the employer in the end as this situation seems to have done. If the Board did not dig enough into Mr. Clarke's past then they have learned an expensive lesson. My thought would be the Search Firm failed the district in that respect. Let us hope Mr. Clarke moves on quickly to what will make him happy and the Board steps up with a timely and fair compromise so the students and staff can get on with what is really important. Hindsight can be destructive and the community needs to be positive in their approach. Slaying the BOE will not help in correcting this difficult situation. I am sure they have learned a good deal from this experience and may even be humbled by the results.
Mike Reno August 15, 2012 at 04:06 PM
The information I listed was debated right here on these Patch forums BEFORE the hire. This is not hindsight... it was foresight at the time. I'm sure that this all appears cynical, but some of us grow weary of these school boards stumbling and fumbling from one cowpie into the next. You place great faith -- unfounded faith, I might add -- in the ability of the board to learn from this. I think all of us were fairly positive when we first started watching the Board of Education. You try watching their actions over a period of years and see how long you can remain confident in what they do. For example... have you looked at the budget lately?
the shadow August 15, 2012 at 04:10 PM
About time for Alex Freeman to concur...or only feeling bi-polar today Mike?
Ahmed Ismail August 15, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I think everyone in the Rochester school district needs to take a step back and ask themselves why Dr, Harwood made the comments he did objectively rather than looking for an some ulterior motive. From a career standpoint, having the commitment to putting students and the community first in a public forum could do nothing but hurt Dr. Harwood. After all, if you were a school board member at another school district that Dr. Harwood may interview with in the future, would you hire someone who is willing to take his career and put it out there because he is so concerned about the direction of his community as a resident? Most myopic school board members I know of would be scared of his honesty and his conviction to doing what is best for the community in which he resides. Being a former school board trustee in Grosse Pointe, I was able to see his conviction to the mantra of "students first" in action. It is truly amazing. If the Rochester school board was smart, rather than shunning his honesty, they would embrace his passion and put HIM on the new superintendent selection committee and use his talents and first hand knowledge of what makes a great school system to make Rochester the school system everyone knows it can be.
Ahmed Ismail August 16, 2012 at 12:02 AM
As far as what to do now, the reality of hiring a new superintendent is that interviews need to happen in January or February so that the new super can start July 1. In the interim, the smart move would be to make Gerri Moore the interim superintendent. She knows the system, its strengths and its weaknesses. At the same time, find Mr. Clarke something he can do in the system until he leaves (or buy out his contract) and move the system forward out of the stagnancy that will happen otherwise. To do any less would be a disservice to the community.
Sue Burstein August 16, 2012 at 05:35 PM
LOL...only it isn't funny. This is not a problem in just Rochester. This is an epidemic throughout school districts and boards. They pretend that they want community input, but the reality is that they are annoyed by the community, cause face it folks, you are just a nuisance with your opinions. In my district, Farmington, put together a committee to help determine which schools to close. This committee put in 1200 man hours and was made up mostly of community members. Guess what, they didn't even vote on any of the "recommended" actions, but rather voted on a "not recommended" action that the Board forced them to consider. What an insult. But the truth is that this is the most power that these people will ever garner in their lifetimes...and they are awash in it and have lost perspective. So, the community needs to fix it. Recall them...vote them out, and put in good people (like Mike Reno was on the Board) who do care what the community has to say. Hey all...THIS IS YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK..not their own money.
Clara T August 16, 2012 at 06:10 PM
You're quite right about the pervasiveness of the problem, Sue. But don't sell the Rochester school board short. When it comes to administrative bumbling and fumbling, they set the standard.


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