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Ypsilanti’s superintendent search, a process which began in January, ended Monday night with the selection of Dedrick Martin to replace the retiring Dr. James Hawkins.
Martin, a Muskegon native, currently serves as the director of equity and achievement for the Champaign, Ill. unit four school district. Before taking that position, he was a teacher and served in administrative roles in Missouri City, Texas.
The selection of Martin comes several months after the school board finished its first round of superintendent interviews. The board originally whittled down the pool of 17 applicants to two finalists, but could not reach a consensus on either candidate.
The board re-posted the position after it became clear no candidate would garner enough votes to be named superintendent.
After the re-post, three applicants were chosen as finalists—Dr. Sarena Shivers of Southfield public schools, Dr. Sandra Harris of Oak Park public schools and Martin. Both Harris and Martin were part of the original pool of candidates.
The board voted 6-1 for Martin, with Trustee Andrew Fanta the only ‘no’ vote. From early on in the process, Fanta expressed his concern about all of the individuals who applied for the position, saying in March that he had “serious questions about every single applicant,” and expressed his support for the appointment of an interim superintendent.
Fanta was not the only one with concerns about Martin’s qualifications. Debbie McQueen, vice president of the Ypsilanti Education Association, acknowledged that Martin has been very successful in all the positions he’s held, but said she thought the move from director to superintendent was “a big jump.”
“Are we in the position at this point to wait for someone to be trained?” McQueen asked the board.
Both McQueen and Fanta, members of the site visitation team, were upset they didn’t get the chance to go out into the Champaign, Ill. community.
“I’m initially suspicious when everybody says nothing but positive things about an individual,” Fanta said.
Fanta and McQueen also questioned why they were hiring someone who was not an original finalist in the process. But Board President David Bates said he thought Martin was qualified and should have made the cut.
“Two months ago when we heard him interview the first time, I was very impressed with him and put him at the top of my list,” Bates said.
Bates was not the only one impressed by Martin. Candice Churchwell, principal of East Middle School, said he was impressed by Martin’s problem solving skills and his experience resolving discipline issues.
“He was their fix-it man,” Churchwell said of Martin in his last role in Champaign, Ill. “The relied on him to solve problems.”
She added that he worked to significantly decrease discipline issues in his district and that “once you decrease discipline problems, learning is going to take place.”
Joe Dukes, the parent representative on the site visitation team, also liked Martin’s management and leadership style and spoke highly of his district’s improved math and reading scores.
“That’s important to me as a parent,” Dukes said about the academic improvement, adding, “I’m looking for someone to come in and handle crisis management and that’s what he did.”
Trustee Sarah Devaney acknowledged that Martin may not have every single experience a sitting superintendent may have, but that it was no reason to discount him.
“I do think Mr. Martin might be green in certain areas,” Devaney said. “But I do think we must not confuse inexperience with inability.”
Bates, Vice president Linda Horne and Trustee Floyd Brumfield will form the team to negotiate a contract with Martin. They are expected to complete the contract before the next regular board meeting.