By Andrew Cluley
Ann Arbor Public Schools officials plan to honor Dr. Scott Westerman’s lifelong dedication to public education and Ann Arbor schools by naming the pre-school after him. Westerman worked directly for the district from 1960 to 1971, serving as Superintendent from 1967 to 1971. He then spent 20 years at Eastern Michigan University, including more than a decade as Dean of the College of Education.
Former School Board member Henry Johnson says Westerman illustrated the best concepts of servant leader before the term was even coined. He also credits Westerman for leading the district through the challenges of the late 1960’s. “Highest accomplishment was that of guiding the Ann Arbor Public Schools through one of its most turbulent times in its history,” Johnson says. “During that time he served with dedication, skill, vision and patience, as he, his staff, and the board deliberated on the future direction of the Ann Arbor Public Schools District.”
This work included developing a curriculum to better reflect the diversity of the student population and increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the staff of Ann Arbor Public Schools. Westerman also pushed to create new partnerships with other organizations with parallel interests to realize a more effective combination of talents, facilities, and personnel in serving the needs of those youth whose needs are very special.
When current School Board Trustee Patricia Manley was a teacher at Huron High School she witnessed these efforts. Manley says Westerman played a key role in dealing with difficulties, mostly related to racial issues. “He was so instrumental in coming in and working with Dr. Mial and leading our staff into a place where we could work congenially with the students and the parents to resolve the issues, he was just wonderful,” she says.
The push for renaming the pre-school as the Ann Arbor Public Schools Dr. W. Scott Westerman, Jr. Preschool and Family Center is being spearheaded by former Trustee Glenn Nelson. He says this recognition is for Westerman’s role as a premier educator focusing on the dignity and uniqueness of each individual. Nelson says it’s also honoring someone who provides the model for what it means to be a good citizen and professional.
Nelson highlights how caring, inclusive, and respectful Westerman is to everyone. “He listens carefully, he believes everyone has the capacity to provide insight and to learn,” Nelson says.
School Board Member Simone Lightfoot says Westerman continues to closely follow the district. ”He’s really complimentary of the work that we do here at the board. He’s never short in ideas, but it’s always with a smile, he’s always so gentle,” Lighfoot says. “He really is willing to take on the hard, uncomfortable issues and navigate them really well and again with just a gentle smile and approach.”
Some of this work in recent years includes serving on the Superintendent’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee, advocating for bond and millage campaigns, and overseeing the Marcine (Marcy) Westerman Endowment for Art and Music Teachers in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and an endowment fund for the Ann Arbor District Library.
The School Board will officially vote on renaming the preschool at their meeting June 24. Letters of recommendation to honor Westerman can still be submitted to Board Assistant Amy Osinski. They will be presented to Westerman at the School Board meeting.