By Don Rush
The new Oxford School Board met for the first time last Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Oxford High School. It was also the first official board meeting for interim Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie L. Markavitch. The full board was in attendance, Dan D’Alessandro, Mary Hanser, Heather Shafer, Erin Reis and new board members Amanda McDonough, James Sommers and Mike Whitney.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, and swearing in of new board members, the board got down to business with electing new officers. Two trustees were nominated to be president, D’Alessandro and Sommers. After discussion, the board voted for D’Alessandro to continue as president by a 5-2 vote. Whitney and McDonough voted against. Shafer was voted as Vice President, Hanser as Treasurer Parliamentarian and Reis as Secretary. Reis was also chosen to represent the Oxford School Board on the Oakland County School Board Association.
The consent agenda, with bills, minutes and the announcement the district hired Shea Rondy as a new fifth grade teacher at Oxford Elementary.
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Dr. Markavitch addressed the board for the first time. She gave her priorities for the district for her six month term of duty (see story starting on Page 1). After her discussion, the board recognized Anita Qonja-Collin, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education for taking on the Superintendent’s responsibilities after Ken Weaver resigned.
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After a discussion on board members bringing a list of committees members wanted to join, Dr. Markavitch suggested the board step back a little. “If you have a concern, bring it to me. I will get together with our experts on staff, you and I and they can sit down and discuss. Then we can present it to the board.”
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Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Instruction Steven Wolf presented the board with a revised course catalogs for the elementary schools, Oxford Middle School, OHS and Oxford Virtual Academy.
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Wolf presented an estimate to purchase a new scissor lift for the high school auto class, replacing the old lift that is not in working order. The lift cost was $42,129.04, purchased from EDI, of Fair Haven, Michigan. The board will approve or not at its next meeting.
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Sam Barna, Assistant Superintendent of Business & Maintenance for the district, asked the board to approve the purchase of a 2022 GMC Terrain to be used by the district staff to and from district buildings. The vehicle will be primarily used by School Safety Administrator James Vernier. The board approved the cost of $28,943.32.
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The board welcomed “back” Ryan Reid to be the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for the district.
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Allison Willemin, Executive Director of School Operations presented the School of Choice enrollment period for the first semester/trimester of 2023 as follows:
Developmental Kindergarten – 9th grade Unlimited Schools of Choice enrollment will open on March 1 and close on Aug. 14.
10th and 11th grades – Unlimited School of Choice to IB, Health Science, Engineering Academy and Dance
Conservatory, Early College enrollment will March 1 and close on Aug. 14.
Developmental Kindergarten – 12th Unlimited School of Choice to Oxford Virtual Academy
Enrollment will open on March 1 and close on Aug. 18.
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Willemin also updated the board on safety items for the district transportation department. She presented an estimate for the board to consider to update cameras on district buses, which will allow live feeds. Currently all large buses have three video cameras on the inside and one outside. The estimated cost is $30,550.
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After a couple of comments from the audience turned to chastising the board in regards of their handling of affairs since the Nov. 30, 2021 shooting, the interim superintendent intervened, “If ever it turns uncivil, ask the board to adjourn until it returns to civility,” Dr. Markavitch said.
After she spoke, former school board member Korey Bailey addressed the board, “Trust, integrity, honesty and accountability, these are the four qualities you list on the school website as core values. Values that you as a board are supposed to exemplify . . . Mr. D’Alessandro you sat down on this board and delivered a lengthy apology to the families and community at large for not being more honest, and transparent on vocal in the early days after the shooting . . . Mr. (Tom) Donnelly and I resigned after sitting through a difficult meeting, where we all learned the truth but couldn’t act due to being in the minority. You learned the truth, Heather learned the truth, Mary learned the truth. Instead of taking action, you would rather hold out for this report from Guidepost, that keeps pushing further and further down the line. The longer you wait the more the community, staff and students know you cannot be trusted. I ask you to allow the two of us (Donnelly and Bailey) from the Open Meetings Act restrictions as to what was discussed in closed session as well as from the restrictions of attorney-client privilege so that we can speak truthfully and completely at recent depositions. You replied that the board would not be lifting this and you denied my request to speak to the new board . . . I spent hours in deposition and simply had to answer ‘yes, I know the facts, yes I do know the truth’ but since it was in closed session, it must be hidden forever. I am asking again to be released from these restrictions. You have the opportunity to lead and restore trust.”
During the final board comments, President D’Alessandro said, “I want to point out one thing. The accusations made that we ‘rounded the horn’ or violated the Open Meeting Act couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason they got a delay – I spoke to several attorneys, not involved with the case, regarding client privilege. Every single person said, every single attorney said in no time that they have practiced law that they have never waived attorney client privilege. The opinion that I responded to was written by one of the district’s attorneys whose specialty is Open Meetings Act and school law. The board holds the privilege, not any single person. If I walk away from the board, it is the privilege of the board, I cannot release that and I am quite sure that Mr. Bailey and Mr. Donnelly’s attorney knows that the path of waiving attorney client privilege would go through a court order. We can’t wait for that. That’s all I want to say about that topic.”
The meeting was adjourned.