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Coloma Board of Education re-opens applications for vacated seat

Coloma Board of Education re-opens applications for vacated seat

By Angela Widdis

Coloma Community school board member Robert Hirsh’s resignation was accepted as reflected in the minutes from a previously scheduled special meeting held on Dec. 28, 2022. His last day serving on the board was Jan. 1, 2023.

Just months after an election in which four candidates who are members of the We The Parents organization lost, spokeswoman, Victory Woodall expresses dissatisfaction with the new appointee, Tandy Ulleg.

Filling the vacancy

As per the Michigan Election Law, cited under: 168.311 School board; appointment to fill vacancy; election; notice to school district election coordinator.

Sec. 311.

(1) If less than a majority of the offices of school board member of a school district become vacant, the remaining school board members shall fill each vacant office by appointment. If a vacancy in the office of school board member is not filled within 30 days after the vacancy occurs or if a majority of the offices of school board member of a school district become vacant, the intermediate school board for that school district shall fill each vacancy by appointment. An individual appointed under this subsection serves until a successor is elected and qualified.

Acting in good faith, the Coloma Board of Education President, Heidi Ishmael, stated that the board decided to look back at the most recent applicants only after receiving confirmation from their attorney that the process they were going to embark on was not in violation of their bylaws. Receiving confirmation that the process was indeed within the constructs of the bylaws, one of the applicants from 2022 was chosen to fill the open position where she took the oath of office on Jan. 9, 2023 at a regularly scheduled meeting.

The bylaw that addresses the filling of board vacancies states:

Filling a Board Vacancy

If the majority of the Board is still seated, the vacancy shall be filled by the Board using the following procedure:

The Board shall seek qualified and interested candidates from the community through the news media, word of mouth, and contacts with appropriate organizations.

All applicants are to submit a notice of their interest, in writing, to the Central Office.

The Board may interview all interested candidates to ascertain their qualifications.

Appointment by the Board to fill a vacancy shall be by majority vote of the full Board.

Ulleg actively participated as an appointed board member after she was sworn in at that meeting on the ninth.

We The Parents group challenges appointee

Woodall, a spokesperson for We the Parents, said, “The board should’ve looked to her [Deb Frank] as a replacement, given the narrow margin.” The spokesperson was referring to the fact that Deb Frank lost in the November general election by less than 20 votes.

Woodall further commented, “The hope is that the board is responsive to the will of the people they serve. In the last election, Deb Frank was only 16 votes shy of obtaining a seat,” she continued, “Picking someone other than Deb raises the question of who the board is actually serving. Regardless of who the board appoints to fill the empty seat, they must follow their own bylaws and the school code.”

Moving forward with transparency

Again acting in good faith, the Board decided to re-open the search and accepted applications until Thursday, Jan. 26. As of press time, two candidates have submitted applications; interviews will proceed on Monday, Jan. 30 when a decision must be made to comply with filling the seat by January 31.

The board is also waiting on their council to advise them as to how to proceed with the already appointed member, Ulleg. Ishmael knows that she has and will continue to lead the Coloma Board of Education in making all decisions that comply with their governing documents, not only in this matter but in every matter in the past or going forward.

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