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Elk Rapids' school board president resigns amid shakeup

Elk Rapids Schools

On Monday night, Elk Rapids Schools' board members began the evening by voting to replace Dave Lein as board president.

The following morning, Lein emailed school officials his letter of resignation. 

"It was a surprise to me that there was obviously an organized and orchestrated effort by four individuals to take over the leadership spots," says Lein.

Lein had served on the board since 2008. 

"A number of factors solidified this decision," Lein wrote in his resignation letter, "all of which are likely apparent. Disagreements are understandable; alternative opinions are encouraged, but lack of faith in one's leadership and experience sends a clear message."

Lein says the board has been divided for a while now. Most recently, he says, they've disagreed on whether another board member, Rod Trautman, should resign. Trautman had resigned as junior varsity football coach last year after being accused of slamming a student into a wall. Lein thought he should also resign from the school board.

"Rod [Trautman] is a good man, and he was a very good board member," Lein says. "I think ...  that no matter how you did it or what your intent was, you just can't use force against a student." Lein says Trautman needed to face the consequences of what he did, particularly because he was a school board member.

Lein says he's been in the minority opinion on a divided board. He says those who thought Trautman should stay on the board were among those who voted for a new board president.

On Monday, the board held there annual operational meeting where they decide who takes on leadership roles. According to Superintendent Steve Prissel, a board member made a motion to keep Dave Lein as president. Board members Lein, Martha McGuire and Sherry Steffen voted for it, but the motion failed. Then a motion to instate Gerald DeGrazia as board president was made and passed. Ultimately, board members DeGrazia, Steffen, Nicole Graf, Rod Trautman and Darryl Antcliff voted for DeGrazia.

“We would expect that there would be a change in the officer positions," DeGrazia, the new board president, says. "So I don’t think that there was a relationship between the position of president and these other issues [like Trautman's resignation]."

Later that night, Trautman gave his resignation to the board. The board voted to accept it with board members Lein, McGuire and Antcliff voting yes, and board members DeGrazia and Graf voting no. Trautman abstained from the vote and Steffen was no longer present.

Lein emailed his resignation to school officials the next morning. DeGrazia says after receiving Lein's letter, he emailed back.

"I requested that he reconsider his decision to resign," says DeGrazia. "That I personally – and I know other board members – appreciate his talent and expertise and commitment to the board."

Lein says he had been considering resigning for a while now, and after being voted out of the board president position, he decided it was time.

"I am sad," says Lein, "but I’m sad for the school and sad for the students and the staff because I think this is just really unfortunate for our district because it’s taking the focus away from our students."

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.