Grand Ledge School Board appoints new trustee at emergency meeting

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The Grand Ledge School Board appointed Ben Cwayna to fill a vacant trustee position at an emergency school board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

At 6 p.m., the Grand Ledge School Board and members of the community gathered in the Sawdon Administration Building to fill the vacancy after Linda Wacyk, a long-time trustee on the board, resigned on Jan. 8, said the School Board President Jonathan Shiflett.

After Wacyk’s resignation, the Grand Ledge Public Schools’ Facebook page and website announced that they were accepting letters of interest and resumes for the vacant position on Jan. 18.

Shiflett said that 10 people officially sent in their letters and resumes for the position.

Cwayna was at the meeting when he was voted into the trustee position. He said that he feels good about being appointed.

“I think it’ll be fun and helpful to help the community and the district, the teachers, the administration, everybody together,” Cwayna said.

When the board opened conversation to the public, some addressed the concerns they had with the night’s limited agenda and the way in which the appointment was handled.

John Ellsworth, who has been a Grand Ledge resident for about 19 years, said that the public wasn’t made aware of the emergency meeting in an efficient or effective way.

“I always say it’s too hard to communicate too much,” he said. “So, social media is something that’s instant, it’s now, it’s on everybody’s phone, you can reach a large audience, and as an elected body, that’s a great way to communicate with your stakeholders and your constituents.”

Ellsworth said that he doesn’t think that the meeting itself was carried out well in regards to how the board chose who was going to fill the vacant position.

“You shouldn’t make a decision without some discussion ahead of time,” he said. “Regardless of whether it was nefarious, to borrow one of the trustees’ words, the appearance that you just made a decision without any discussion… It does not look democratic. It does not look like there was thought put into it.”

Vice President Sarah Clark Pierson told the community that the board only had 30 days to fill the vacancy and that this is why the board rushed to have the emergency meeting.

She also addressed that her daughter will be having a baby within the next few weeks, and this is yet another reason why the board scheduled the meeting so quickly.

If the board had not scheduled the meeting and appointed a new person to fill the vacancy within 30 days, the Ingham Intermediate School District (ISD) would have picked who would fill the vacancy, Shiflett said.

Shiflett said that he thinks that there could have been improvements in how the community was made aware of the emergency meeting.

“One of the focuses of the board has actually been to utilize social media more,” Shiflett said. “So, I’d like to make sure that, next time, we post it on social media as well. I think that would’ve been better.”

Shiflett said that the next step for handling this newly-filled position is to have Cwayna sworn in and to notify the County Clerk.

After that, Cwayna will have to re-run in the fall to keep his position on the board since Wacyk’s term would have ended in December of 2018, Shiflett said.

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