With only two candidates to interview, the East Lansing Board of Education named Gary Holbrook, parent and business leader, to fill the seat left vacant by the Aug. 3 resignation of Amanda Cormier.
Holbrook was one of three initial applicants, the others being Michael Feldpausch and Adam DeLay. DeLay informed ELi in a phone call before Monday’s meeting that he had removed himself from the running.
Holbrook and Feldpausch were both interviewed during the Aug. 14 board meeting, and were provided in advance the four questions Board President Terah Chambers would ask in advance. Feldpausch, a candidate for the school board in the 2022 election, appeared in person while Holbrook called in as he was on a pre-planned vacation with his family.
“I bring a perspective…rich in real world experience from evaluating and hiring for my small business of 16 years,” Feldpausch said in his opening remarks to the board. “Making decisions based on the marketplace [and] succeeding after I start from scratch. I’m college educated with a bachelor degree from Michigan State. I spoke at most board meetings for a year a couple [years] ago. I’m not connected in local politics [and] I’m not endorsed by any local or state teachers’ union.”
Feldpausch was endorsed by Chris Umphlett who rose and spoke during public comment about his appreciation for him.
“I’ve seen him work as a volunteer baseball coach in the community,” Umphlett said of Feldpausch. “Back in 2021, he was one of the only people at pick up and drop off who was interested in talking sort of ELPS news and things, which I appreciated because I was also trying to educate myself and get to know more things about the district. I learned that I don’t agree with him on quite a few things. Some things I do agree with them on but I just respected the hustle. I respected that he was paying attention, that he cared about his kids and connecting those dots.”
“One thing we always agreed on was transparency and communication with parents,” Umphlett continued. “When he ran for the position in November, that was one of the things he talked about. I don’t know that it resonated a lot with people at the time, but given what happened over the next few months, I think we all in the school community have a greater appreciation for the need for transparency and communication with parents. So he was there before it was sort of the popular thing; he had the foresight to see this as a problem in advance.”
Feldpausch addressed his potential differences with those serving on the board.
“I’m quite confident my politics don’t align with people here and that’s fine,” Feldpauch said, “but I don’t aim to inject politics into the school. I don’t aim to advocate for any particular thing at all. I want things to be revealed, as much information as possible, to the parents so they can know what’s going on in the curriculum and at school, in sports and everything and make informed decisions on their children’s education.”
Holbrook spent part of his interview explaining his thoughts on the role of the school board.
“It’s worth noting what the board member is not,” he said. “A board member is not a school employee. Board members don’t generally have a direct role in daily operations of the district.”
“Something that I’ve heard about members of this board that I appreciate very much,” Holbrook said, “is that they do a great job listening to public concerns and then asking a key question, which is ‘Have you worked with the administration on this problem yet [because] if not, will you please go do that and let me know how that turned out?’ Because that’s the order things should happen in. People sometimes want to get a little more involved in the daily grind than is really appropriate.”
After interviews were completed, board members thanked both men for taking the time to apply. Chambers explained that the board had 30 days from the time of Cormier’s resignation to fill the seat, so immediate action was not necessary.
After a few moments of seemingly uncomfortable silence, with Feldpausch still seated in the front row of the audience, Board Treasurer Kath Edsall made a motion to name Holbrook to the board.
Edsall’s motion passed unanimously.
Other meeting business included the hiring of eight new teachers to the district.
The next board meeting will be held Monday, Aug. 28, at 7:00 p.m. in the board meeting room in the high school’s lower level.