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'From the moment she got here, she was a Dragon'

Board asks Ginopolis to stay on with district two years

February 16, 2011 - If everything goes according to plan, Marion Ginopolis will stay at the helm of Lake Orion Community Schools for the next two years.

The board was in unanimous agreement and - judging by the applause - so was the audience at last week's meeting of the district's board of education.

The tentative decision rose from a brief discussion about the superintendent search process.

In December, the board agreed to put out a formal request for proposals (RFP) before hiring a search firm to identify potential candidates for the job abandoned by former superintendent Ken Gutman.

"Back when Mr. Gutman told us he took the job with Walled Lake, it made my life less than stellar," said board President Mary Jo Burchart at the Feb. 9 meeting. "We looked at five candidates (for interim superintendent) and Marion immediately rose to the top. From the moment she got here, she was a Dragon."

Shortly before the TFP was hammered out, Ginopolis told the board she could stay on past her contract date, if necessary.

The RFP went out last month. Four came back. After a Feb. 7 meeting of the superintendent search committee, made up of Burchart, Treasurer Jim Weidman, and Trustee Kelly Weaver, Burchart told the board she'd like to "offer another option."

"To ask Marion to stay for a longer period of time and take the 'interim' off her name," Burchart said. "So we would have some consistency with what's going on in the district."

Ginopolis' "expertise in technology would come in handy," as well, she added.

Other members of the board echoed the sentiment, as Burchart called on each for thoughts.

Weidman said the district would do well to draw on Ginopolis' background, regardless of the upcoming school bond outcome.

"Marion's background and experience in school technology will be vital to us," said Weidman. "Even more so should we not succeed in securing the bond."

Since retirement from Oxford Schools in 2000, Ginopolis worked as an educational consultant in digital age literacy and 21st century skills, developing and teaching online courses for high school students, teachers and administrators.

According to her biography, Ginopolis also participated in development of a leadership curriculum for Intel, was a senior facilitator in the Intel Teach to the Future Leadership Forum Program, and a national trainer for Microsoft Partners in Learning School Leadership - Building 21st Century Skills Curriculum.

She also directed two grant-funded leadership development programs, training over 3,000 school leaders in 21st century leadership skills centered on systems change and technology integration.

"I have been out there in the community and heard nothing but great things about Marion," said Trustee Kelly Weaver. "The thought that we are moving in such a positive direction is thoroughly exciting."

Weaver, like other board members, was supportive of keeping Ginopolis on for an extended period, and said she found the four proposals - two from Michigan firms and two from outside the state - varied greatly from one another.

"I was amazed by the drastic difference," Weaver said. "How do we know these people can bring us anything?"

Trustee Steven Drakos said he was opposed to using a search firm because of the costs involved, but other trustees said it warranted at least a closer look.

"This is an $80 million dollar operation," said Trustee Bob Gritzinger, noting he watched Ginopolis interview with Oxford Schools in his days as a reporter with the Oakland Press and has "a level of trust with her" from then. "I would prefer we at least take a look at what these firms have to offer. Keeping Marion on board...is a spectacular idea."

The board ultimately agreed not to pursue interviews with the search firms, and will begin hammering out an extended contract at the Feb. 23 meeting.

Ginopolis said she's happy to stay on, as long as the role doesn't interfere with her current retirement status.

"If I can stay here and continue to make a difference, I'm willing to stay for a couple more years," she said.

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