The end of an era came to fruition as a group of board of education members served their last meeting as trustees on Dec. 18. Board Vice President Joyce Brasington, Secretary Mark Stepek and Treasurer Jenny Guthrie bid farewell to their fellow trustees in a bittersweet way and looked back at their time on the board.
A Wildcat her whole life, Brasington started her schooling as a four-year-old at Daniel Axford Elementary and is a 1982 OHS grad.
As a professional, she was the principal of Leonard Elementary from 2005-2009 and then Daniel Axford from 2009-2013. Under her leadership, Leonard earned the Michigan Blue Ribbon Leadership Exemplary School distinction and Daniel Axford earned International Baccalaureate World School accolades. She now works as a principal in the Troy school district.
Brasington ran for her school board seat in 2013 to work for change regarding the concerns she had revolving around the district’s then-leadership. Looking back over the years, she’s proud about the things she and her colleagues on the board accomplished.
“Together we have grown so much, and I’m so pleased with the new leadership that’s coming onto the board in January… The students are at the benefit of all of our hard work here as a board,” she said.
Brasington served as one of the board’s ever-independent voices, pushing for outside opinions when the superintendent position was being refilled in 2015, speaking out against President Donald Trump’s 2017 appointment of Betsy DeVos as the nation’s secretary of education and being a staunch opposer of the district’s proposal to build a dorm for Chinese exchange students.
Though she didn’t always see eye to eye with other board members, she was told by her colleagues on Dec. 18 that she’ll be a missed voice and friend on the board.
“Joyce, I’ve learned a lot from you,” Trustee Heather Shafer said. “I always listen to what you have to say, you have wisdom and you brought a lot of that to this board.”
A board member since 2014, Stepek is also known around town for being the president of the athletic boosters since 2013, a position he said he will continue to hold.
Throughout his time as an Oxford School’s official, Stepek stood up as a big supporter of the high school’s blue turf field, an overall supporter of student athletes and fosterer of school spirit, a supporter of the district’s Chinese exchange and international program and doing whatever he could to be the best board member. He left the remaining and incoming trustees with a little advice:
“Go to those (school board member) classes,” he said. “Take as many as you can.”
He said he’ll miss his friendships on the board, namely board President Tom Donnelly, but promised they haven’t seen the last of him. Donnelly said Stepek made a lasting impression on him.
“Mr. Stepek, I think you bleed blue and gold,” Donnelly said. “Just the fact that you leave this board and are still involved in three or four other events proves that you’re just an all-in spirit.”
Guthrie was appointed in 2016 after an unsuccessful run earlier that year and served two years as its treasurer. Guthrie was observably a board member always thinking of her constituency and every angle of an issue. For example, Guthrie pushed her colleagues to think of more than just the benefits when the district partnered with Lighthouse Connections Academy earlier this year.
Guthrie said she was honored to have served the district for two years
“I just wanted to say to my fellow board members that it has been an honor and a privilege to serve with you, and thank you so much… Thank you to each and every one of you, and I feel like those coming onto the board are going to be fantastic,” she said.
Guthrie was hailed by her fellow trustees as a resilient spirit.
“(Your) kind of determination and drive will stay with me,” Donnelly said.
At the board’s next meeting on Jan. 8, the incoming Erick Foster, Mary Hanser and Chad Griffith will take the open seats at the board table.