At an abruptly called special meeting for 5 p.m. the night before Thanksgiving, the East Lansing School Board unanimously selected Dr. Terah Chambers, an associate professor of education at MSU, as their newest member, filling a seat that became available following the early retirement of Trustee Yasmina Bouraoi.
Chambers was nominated for the position the week before but was not able to get a majority vote from the members.
Chambers, one of seven candidates, was supported by Trustees Erin Graham and Karen Hoene, as well as then-Board President Nell Kuhnmuench. Remaining Board members Kate Powers, Hillary Henderson and Nichole Martin voted against Chambers the week before but at the Wednesday night meeting they changed their votes to “yes,” and Chambers was sworn into the board immediately following the vote.
“I have spent a lot of time soul searching,” said Powers. “Through difficult conversations with the other Board members, it became more important to me that we manage this scenario at a District level. As adults we have the opportunity to grow and change. I appreciate the work that goes into being a Board member and believe I have a duty to make sure it is handled at our level.” After the Board’s earlier failure to agree on a new member, the stated plan was to refer the matter to the Ingham Intermediate School Disctrict (ISD) for a decision.
Also on Wednesday, Kuhnmuench resigned her position as Board president and Powers was unanimously selected. Traditionally, the selection of Board president takes place at the first meeting of a new year. No reason was given as to why Kuhnmuench was stepping down from the position early.
Before Chambers was formally nominated by Graham, candidate Rufus Jackson, football coach and the first pick of Henderson, Martin and Powers, withdrew his candidacy.
“Every one of the candidates is a great candidate, “ Jackson said. “ I think I can help in many other ways, which I do every day.”
Tim Akers, president of the East Lansing Education Association teachers’ union, also spoke before the vote and thanked the Board for calling the meeting and handling the selection of the new member “in house” instead of letting the Ingham ISD decide.
“To leave it in their hands would have been a mistake,” Akers said.
Resident Wenona Singel also spoke in favor of Chambers, and said she had serious concerns about the criteria used by those trustees who had earlier voted against Chambers, specifically that Henderson, Powers and Martin voted in favor of Jackson, then Debbie Walton, Jamie White and finally Todd Swales but still refused to vote for Chambers.
The meeting lasted a total of 22 minutes.
The Board is scheduled to meet again tonight (Monday) at 7 p.m. The agenda includes taking votes on a new policy on how school employees interact with immigration enforcement officials, and a resolution opposing a state Senate bill to allow guns in school.