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Willow Run School Board Member Joi Jenson resigned from the district's board of education on May 6, following a heated board meeting.
On Friday, Jenson attempted to rescind her resignation; however, according to Board President Sheri Washington, policy states that since Jenson's resignation was written as "effective immediately," the district must accept her resignation as is.
“I had to follow policy,” Washington said by phone tonight. “I can't show favoritism.”
During a phone interview today, Jenson said she has reapplied for her former position, which is now considered vacant and open for any district resident to apply.
Jenson said her resignation was due in part to frustration at several issues raised during the meeting, including the district's support of a county-wide transportation consolidation program as well as the way the district handled implementing a new freshman academy that will be put in place next fall at the high school.
“Not one time did they discuss the hiring process,” Jenson said, referencing the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's presentation of the new transportation consolidation plan. “In my opinion, it's not a good plan for people. I don't support privatization.”
The new transportation proposal will require all Willow Run transportation staff to reapply for positions with WISD. Current Willow Run employees will not be guaranteed a job under the new consolidation plan.
As for the freshman academy, Jenson said she did not like the way it was presented to the board as funding for training, but without approval of the program itself. Both Jenson and Board Member Anglesia Brown voted against funding for the training.
“I didn't like the way it was brought to the table,” Jenson said. “I don't support selective programming. We have an entire student body that needs our support.”
Jenson also said she hasn't gotten support or communication from other board members recently, specifically Board President Sheri Washington.
“I felt that she's been on her own political agenda,” Jenson said. “I think that she has taken matters into her own hands without consulting us as a board. It doesn't show that we have a united front.”
Washington said Jenson has not tried to speak to her individually about any of her concerns.
“Joi has not reached out. If she has any specific issues, she certainly has not addressed those issues with me. She didn't give me the opportunity to talk her out of resigning, and she didn't give me the opportunity to address the reasons she resigned,” Washington said. “I do have a personal agenda and feel free to quote me on it. Execute the items in our deficit elimination plan. That is definitely personal—must do that, because I don't want to see Willow Run close its doors. Making sure our budget is approved, and we're still in limbo because we're still in the process of getting concessions from labor groups. There's so many things that have been presented at the board table that I'm working on. There isn't anything else.
Jenson admitted that when she submitted her resignation, she did so because she was emotional and frustrated.
“I realized I did make a mistake,” Jenson said. “I know my constituents and I know those that support me deserve to hear my side of the story. I don't want to just give up that easy. Even if you're standing by yourself, at least you're standing for what's right.”
The district will be accepting applications for Jenson's vacant seat at the Office of Human Resources until 4 p.m. May 19. The district is required to fill the vacant spot on the board within 30 days of a board member's resignation.
“It's an unfortunate situation, but I don't want it to be a black eye for Willow Run when it doesn't have to be,” Washington said. “I expect Ms. Jenson to be back on this board and hopefully with renewed zeal, with more vigor and more passion, but also I hope that she's more focused and more learned.”
Jenson's resignation follows several incidents of upheaval within the district's administration, including the board's removal of former Superintendent Doris Hope-Jackson and Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks. Both suspended administrators are currently on paid administrative leave and facing charges of misappropriating funds and violating their contracts with the district.
Closed due process hearings are underway for both Hope-Jackson and Hicks.