ERS board of ed - 030623 (copy)

The Elk Rapids Board of Education on Monday night when Superintendent Julie Brown resigned. Vice President Holly Spencer, far left, announced her resignation at a special meeting Friday.  

ELK RAPIDS — The vice president of the Elk Rapids school board resigned as the board heads into its second superintendent search in three years.

The Elk Rapids Board of Education voted to accept Vice President Holly Spencer’s resignation, which will be effective March 15.

Spencer declined to comment on her resignation in person after the meeting on Friday, because she said she had to start work at the score table at the boys basketball game. However, she emailed the Record-Eagle the resignation letter she wrote to her fellow trustees Friday evening.

In the letter, Spencer thanked her fellow trustees for not letting disagreements on board matters get personal, sacrificing personal and family time to speak with community members, making informed decisions and maintaining their integrity. She also thanked her fellow trustees for “for all the times there was more you wanted to say but did not for legal reasons or you just knew it wouldn’t support the health of our district or community.”

Spencer has been on the Elk Rapids school board since March 2017, and she has served on the Michigan Association of School Boards board of directors for three years. She has also won multiple awards from MASB for the number of hours of board training she has undergone, she said.

“I know what good board service looks like and you possess those qualities. You are a high functioning group,” Spencer wrote in the letter. “Do not let people that don’t understand board roles or people who are seeking to create a narrative for self serving purposes make you question your effectiveness and professionalism.”

She also wrote that she is “appalled” at community members who have questioned the trustees’ integrity “without all of the facts.”

Spencer said she has been trying to find the right time to step away from the board, because she no longer feels she can give it the attention it needs, as her sons are both graduating soon.

“I want to spend their last year of school being a spectator and a mom,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer’s resignation comes just a few days after Elk Rapids Superintendent Julie Brown, who has been with the district since October 2020, announced her resignation, effective June 30, during public comment at a Monday board meeting.

On Monday, Brown stated she felt unsupported by trustees and cited several incidents in which she felt the board overstepped. However, Board President Jennifer Brown, who is not related to Superintendent Brown, said after Monday’s meeting that she felt the board had been misrepresented during the superintendent’s statement.

While Spencer’s resignation is effective March 15, she stepped away from the vice president position earlier in the week, so the board voted unanimously to elect Trustee Derek Morton to the position of vice president on Friday.

Board President Brown commended Spencer for the number of hours she put in attending conferences and training sessions, which has made her “a great resource” for the other board members.

“I believe Holly has always done what she truly believes is in the best interest of ER schools even when that choice may not seem popular,” Brown said. “I am so grateful to Holly for all she has given to the school board and district and I know she will continue to support the district in many other ways.”

At the end of the meeting, Trustee Darryl Antcliff said Spencer’s resignation is “a huge loss to the board” and thanked her for her work as a trustee.

“This should be more of a celebration, and due to the circumstance, I don’t think you’re getting your justice,” Antcliff said. “Words can’t describe, I’ve never worked with a board president that has been more prepared and available.”

Jenna Morton, Trustee Morton’s wife, spoke during the public comment section of the meeting to thank Spencer for her contributions to the board and the school district, despite criticism she received from the public.

She also called on those talking about recalling board members to apply for the vacant position on the board.

“Thank you for sticking it out when you get criticized over and over again by the public comments when they have no idea what’s going on,” Morton said. “I wish these community members knew how much stress, time and emotion you have put into this position.”

The school board has 30 days from March 15 to fill the vacancy before the Intermediate School District steps in to appoint someone. Board President Brown said that the vacancy will be posted soon, and the board will hold public interviews for candidates on April 6 and April 10.

On Friday, the board also discussed next steps forward in the superintendent search process.

Trustees expressed an urgency in wanting to get the superintendent search underway as soon as possible, and agreed to hear presentations from the Michigan Association of School Boards and Michigan Leadership Institute in April to decide which firm to use for their search.

Brown said that the board can plan to host both firms for presentations on April 10, but if there are too many board candidates and they need that day for interviews, they will move those presentations to their regular meeting on April 17.

Trustees also came to a consensus to find someone whom they can have lined up to act as an interim superintendent in the event they have a vacancy at some point, like if their first round of the search process does not yield any candidates that they want to hire.

Before Superintendent Brown was hired in 2020 Elk Rapids Public Schools had two interim superintendents, Tom Enslen and Tom Ross, after Stephen Prissel left in 2018. In 2017, a reported student shoving incident prompted the unexpected resignation of two board members.

Trending Video

Recommended for you