BAS Board Interviews Irvine, Responds To Teacher Protest
September 2, 2020
By Tom Tolen / email@example.com
Sharon Irvine, one of three finalists for the Brighton superintendent’s position, was grilled in a series of questions Tuesday by three groups: Brighton Area Schools staff, administration, and the public. The questions were submitted in advance and the interview took place online, via Zoom and YouTube. Irvine is Brighton’s assistant superintendent for labor relations and personnel, a position she has held since July 1st of last year.
Asked by a Brighton parent whether she supports a pay cut for teachers and other staff, Irvine said that she is “not at liberty to discuss it without compromising our bargaining position.” Irvine was asked by another parent what attracted her to Brighton. After mentioning the difficulties inherent with taking on the responsibility of a superintendent during a pandemic, Irvine said, in her words, “Brighton is pretty neat, (and) I cannot wait to step into a role like that.”
In answer to a question by a parent about her qualifications, Irvine responded that she has “a wide range of experiences in Ypsilanti, Northville and Warren.” Before coming to Brighton last year, Irvine was assistant superintendent of the Warren Consolidated School District, a position she held for seven years. She has likewise been chief operating officer and human resources director for the district. In addition, Irvine has served as assistant superintendent for human resources in the Ypsilanti Public School District and as a building principal in the Northville Public Schools. Interestingly, she is also a past president of the Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Education - a position she held for four years.
Finally, to a question by a BAS staff member, Irvine said that her “heart is always in building trust, building connections and building relationships.” Irvine has a law degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and is a candidate to receive a doctorate in Education Leadership from Eastern Michigan University. She earns $130,000 per year in her position.
At a meeting on Monday, in which all three finalists were interviewed by the board, loud protests could be heard in the meeting room from primarily teachers, both standing outside the BECC building and driving by repeatedly while honking their car horns. In a news release issued yesterday afternoon, the Board of Education, in response to that and comments by teachers at the meeting, stated that the leadership of the Brighton Education Association, the bargaining unit representing district teachers, “waited until the 11th hour to begin bargaining financial terms and chose to deliberately release certain details of the negotiations process (including an alleged requested 5.8% pay cut, in an effort to) “manipulate the emotions of the teachers and community as means of trying to pressure the board into capitulation.”
The release, posted below, said that while the board would like to release the facts and discussions that have occurred during the negotiations, “(it) is legally prevented from doing so, and such disclosure would be counter-productive to the negotiation process to which the board remains committed.”
The press release stated that the district has been saddled with a huge, unexpected budget cut in the 2019-20 fiscal year that ended June 30th totaling $1.5 million, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. It stated that, “Approximately $1.5 million was retroactively cut from the BAS 2019-2020 fiscal year budget, and the state is projecting in excess of $5 million in cuts in Brighton Area Schools’ budget for the 2020-2021 school year.” Again, quoting from the news release, “Despite knowledge of the looming financial crisis, the board proactively sought in the spring of 2020 to protect all of its employees from reductions to their current pay while asking them to suspend expectations for additional money in the 2020-2021 school year. In short, the board wanted to bring financial stability during a time of great uncertainty. “
Interview sessions are being held this week for the purpose of posing questions to the three finalists — one per day — with Thursday’s being the last. Today, it will be Swartz Creek Community Schools Superintendent Benjamin Mainka’s turn, and Thursday, Brandon School District Superintendent Matthew Outlaw. Staff members’ questions will be addressed from 4-5 p.m., administrators’ from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. and community members' from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Questions should be submitted in advance to John Silveri of the Michigan Leadership Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org>. Those with questions will be asked to state their name and whether they are a staff member, student, parent, or community member.
After participating questioners will be asked to share their thoughts at www.surveymonkey.com/r/9CZR965.