NEW BUFFALO — During the first New Buffalo Area School Area Schools Board of Education meeting of 2023 (held Jan. 9), four members took part in the ceremonial oath of office.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Lindley led the ceremony which confirmed new members Brad Brunner, Denise Churchill, Vanessa Thun and continuing member Lisa Werner to the board.

The meeting was then turned over to board president Werner who called for the election of officers. Werner was voted in to remain as President, Patricia Newton was elected Vice-President, Brad Brunner was confirmed as Secretary and John Haskins chosen to be the Treasurer.

After officers were elected, Werner stated that the board will operate as a Committee of the Whole and appointed board members to the following committees:

Board President (Werner), Vice-President (Newton) and Treasurer (Haskins) will serve on the Executive/Finance Committee. Board Secretary Brunner is the alternate.

Vanessa Thun will serve on the Berrien County Intermediate School District committee.

Denise Churchill will serve on the Berrien-Cass School Boards’ Association.

John Haskins will represent the board on the Local Revenue Sharing Board (LRSB).

Lindley welcomed the new and returning members of the board and commented, “this is National School Board Month and I know how much work and time it goes into being a school board member. I want to thank all the families who will share these elected officials with us to do this important work to the community.”

Werner added, “I know that the new board members have already hit the ground running and I look forward to all of us working together in the future.”

There were two presentations made at the January 9th meeting.

First up was David Killips, Regional President of the Michigan Leadership Institute. Killips took the board through the entire process and proposed timetable for the new district superintendent search.

The first step will be posting the position on appropriate association and employment sites throughout the State and he said he hopes to do this within the next week. The deadline for submitting applications will be March 17. According to Killips, “the current pool of applicants for other superintendent positions we’re working on are not large, so we expect the number of applications to only be in the teens.”

During the next few weeks, Killips will be reaching out to the board, administrators, staff members and other stakeholders through focus groups, questionnaires, the Website, and more in order to put together a “candidate profile” document which states 1) the skills, traits and characteristics desired in a potential superintendent 2) the challenges facing the district over the next 3-5 years and 3) what he referred to as “points of pride” – personal goals for the position.

Once finalized, the document will be shared with the board and then posted along with the job listing. He is targeting February 1 for this to be completed.

By the week of March 28, all applicants’ resumes and other credentials will be reviewed by the board and a list of 3 to 6 candidates will be selected. Interviews of these candidates will take place April 11-13 depending on the number selected.

From these interviews, a list of “finalists” will be determined with a proposed interview date of April 20. These interviews will be open to the public.

During the second presentation, Eric Neagu, Principal at The Antero Group and a Civil Engineer/Urban Planner and Ed Gosselin, Attorney, led a discussion about the potential of developing “attainable housing” in New Buffalo. This type of development would serve the district’s building and trades program and would also create “affordable” housing for local employees and families.

Currently, Neagu and Gosselin are at the “concept” stage of planning and are exploring a variety of types of sale-able and rent-able housing units that would be built on land currently owned by the district. Their goal is to preserve trees and designated trails, utilize wetlands and be sustainable where possible. In addition, they will be proposing deed restrictions so that the units would not be used as second homes/vacation properties.

Neagu and Lindley suggested that interested parties should attend an upcoming Feb. 2 meeting with the City, New Buffalo Township and the School District which will take place at 6 p.m. at the Middle/High School.

There was also a brief board discussion led by Lindley regarding the current Juul Labs Litigation settlement where several school districts entered into a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer of vaping cartridges. The basis of the lawsuit was both the health impact of vaping on young people and the marketing efforts that are geared toward youth such as offering attractive flavors. A settlement was awarded to the school districts.

Lindley informed the board that there will be another class action lawsuit at no cost to participate for the district. If a settlement is reached, the district could use the funds to help enhance educational endeavors and he recommended that that board join this litigation.

New council member (and former principal) Brad Brunner put forth the motion to join the new Juul Labs Vaping Lawsuit and the board unanimously agreed to participate.

“I have seen first-hand the impact that vaping has on our children and it’s very bad,” Brunner stated.

In other Jan. 9 business, the board approved the replacement of two HVAC equipment units for the elementary gym rooftop in the amount of $73,922. Lindley commented, “we knew the equipment was dated and there’s a 2 to 3 week wait to get the new units. Luckily, one unit could be pieced back together so we do have heat in the interim.”

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