By Tom Tolen /

The Brighton Board of Education has narrowed the field of finalists for the superintendent’s position to three from the original six finalists.

At a special meeting last Friday - their fourth in a week — the board voted unanimously to select as a finalist Brandon School District Superintendent Matthew Outlaw, the only candidate who received each member’s vote for a finalist’s position. Also selected to be a finalist were Sharon Irvine, Brighton Area Schools Assistant Superintendent for Labor Relations and Personnel, and Swartz Creek Community Schools Superintendent Benjamin Mainka. Irvine and Mainka each received five votes for a finalist’s spot. Irvine came to Brighton last year after serving six years as assistant superintendent in the huge Warren Consolidated School District near Detroit. She has also held administrative positions in the Ypsilanti Community Schools and the Northville Public Schools.

Mainka, the superintendent in Swartz Creek, southwest of Flint, is in charge of a school district of about 3,600 students. Prior to coming there in 2016 he was a high school principal in Hartland and a junior high principal in Fowlerville. He is also past associate director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals in Lansing.

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 in Oakland County. 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. Outlaw was born and raised in Brighton and attended the Brighton Area Schools.

In fact, a coincidence is that all three finalists live in the Brighton Area, and two - Mainka and Outlaw - have children who are students in the Brighton Area Schools. Brighton school board President Andy Burchfield told WHMI the reason that three live in Brighton is that, “It’s just a great place to live,” adding another attraction is that Brighton has a reputation for having an excellent school district.

Burchfield told WHMI he is “very pleased with all the six (finalists),” saying, “It was a very difficult decision to evaluate all six highly-qualified candidates — all have great backgrounds and experience.” A site committee of three board members will visit the work sites of the three finalists, including Sharon Irvine. Asked why Irvine was also chosen for a site visit since she is an in-house candidate, Burchfield said, “It makes sure the process is consistent across the board.” The person selected to lead the district in the foreseeable future will replace Greg Gray, who retired as superintendent on June 30th after 11 years in the top spot.

The board will meet in regular bi-monthly session tonight beginning at 7 p.m.The meeting will be online for all but board members and can be accessed via Zoom by going to the district's website ( for instructions.

According to the district website, here is the remaining schedule for meetings that will lead to the selection of a new superintendent:

• Finalist Interviews: September 1 & 2
• Site Visits: Week of September 14
• Selection by Board of Education: September 23
• Board Action to Hire New Superintendent: October 12
• Start Date: October 26 (tentative)