By Tom Tolen /

The superintendent of a school district in Oakland County has been offered, and informally accepted, pending the signing of a contract, the position of superintendent of the Brighton Area School District.

He is Matthew Outlaw, coincidentally a Brighton native and current local resident who went through the Brighton school system, and whose children are now enrolled in the Brighton Area Schools. Laura Surrey, the former assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Brighton, is currently Brighton’s interim superintendent, a position she took after former superintendent Greg Gray retired at the end of June, after 11 years in the position. Surrey agreed to take the interim position until a new superintendent is secured.

Outlaw, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from Wayne State University, is superintendent of the 2,400-student Brandon School District in Ortonville, north of Clarkston. He is the former principal of Grosse Pointe South High School, former dean of students at Novi High School and a part-time adjunct professor at three Detroit area universities.

Brighton Board of Education President Andy Burchfield told WHMI after the meeting it’s just a matter of tying the loose ends of the contract. Although he would not divulge its terms, Burchfield said the parameters of the position, as posted by the district, are from $175,000-$195,000 per year. The vote for Outlaw followed site visits last week at each of the school districts of the three finalists. Burchfield contacted Outlaw by phone during the meeting, and Outlaw said he was “honored” by the offer and the board’s confidence in him, adding he “can’t wait to get to work.” The other finalists were Swartz Creek Superintendent Benjamin Mainka and Sharon Irvine, the Brighton Area Schools’ assistant superintendent for labor relations and personnel.

The vote to select Outlaw was unanimous. Board Trustee Laura Mitchell said, “Dr. Outlaw possesses all the qualities (the board) outlined, including his dedication to the community; he’s lived in the school district 44 years, went through district schools, and his kids go to district schools.”

All expressed the difficulty in coming to a decision on who they want the next superintendent to be. Board Secretary Roger Myers said that, “Any…would be an excellent choice; all three brought tremendous strengths as leaders.” Board Vice President Alicia Reid said that, “(Outlaw) has demonstrated that he has a vision, in collaboration with his district and community.” Board President Andy Burchfield said his question was, “Who is the best fit right now for the Brighton Area Schools? The candidate that stood out to me,” Burchfeld said, “is Dr. Outlaw,”

Commenting at the public comments portion of the meeting was a teacher who congratulated the board for selecting Matthew Outlaw, but chose the occasion to add that with a new superintendent and “stable funding” in place, the board needed to settle the teacher contract. Loud car horn blasts could be heard from outside the Brighton Education and Community Center last month while discussion of hiring a new superintendent was taking place. The Brighton Education Association, representing about 325 Brighton teachers, disrupted the Aug. 31st board meeting with shouts and honking car horns outside the building. The last district offer that was made public involved what the BEA said was a 5.8% reduction in salary. Although negotiations have continued since that time, the latest offer, and BEA counter offer, have not been made public. Asked the current status of negotiations, Burchfield said only that, in his words, “The district continues to negotiate in good faith.” The only other comment was by BHS pom pon team representative Chris Darkowski, who objected to the fact that while the Michigan High School Athletic Association has approved some fall sports this year, it did not approve girls’ pom pon. Darkowski said that disallowing pom pon discriminates against female athletes, and asked the district to contact the MHSAA and urge it to reinstate girls’ pom pon.

According to the timeline set by the district, the board is expected to take action on the superintendent contract at its Oct. 12th meeting, and — if everything is in order - Outlaw would take over as superintendent as of Monday, Oct. 26th.