Lansing School Board taps MSU urban planning professor to fill vacancy

Deyanira Nevárez Martínez picked from a pool of 15 candidates


FRIDAY, Sept. 22 — After interviewing 15 candidates to fill a vacancy, the Lansing School District Board of Education has found a match in Deyanira Nevárez Martínez.

The board elected Martínez, an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at Michigan State University, last night to fill the seat vacated by Kurt Richardson, who resigned last month to pursue a new job opportunity.

Martínez’s appointment came on the third vote of the evening.

First, Erica Lynn lost, 4-4. Then, Daniel Nowski was turned down, 5-3.

Martiznez was approved 6-2. Vice president Robin M. Moore and Trustee Rosalyn Williams voted against her.  Martinez was chosen to fill out the remaining five-plus years of the six-year term to which Richardson was elected last November.

Martínez is a University of Arizona graduate who earned a Ph.D. in urban and environmental planning and policy from the University of California-Irvine in 2021.

“I’m the daughter of migrant farm workers who’s now a university professor, and that’s thanks to public schools,” Martínez said. “I have no doubt that our Lansing schools are full of students who are just as capable and share in those dreams. They need us to make sure that they have the skills and opportunity.”

In her board interview last week, Martínez said her first priority was “the adoption, acceptance and delivery of educational excellence across the board in everything that we do — be it the classroom, the library, sports, extracurricular activities, parent involvement. We must make it our institutional, cultural priority that every student can succeed.”

The board needs to continue “addressing the racial disparities in discipline and also in achievement and opportunity.”

“I reject the deficit model of education that has been historically flawed and a racist excuse for allowing students to become statistics that feed our youth into the pipeline of incarceration,” Martínez said, adding that the students themselves are the district’s number one asset. Board President Rachel R. Willis asked how Martínez what the board should do to attract and maintain students.

“My initial question is: Who are we trying to attract? Who are we trying to keep, and why? White flight and income flight are real. My first priority would be to keep the students we have and give them substantial reasons to stay,” Martínez said.

Besides Lynn and Nowski, Martínez was selected from a pool of candidates that included Lynn Dillon, Carlton Evans, Amanda Jones, Ted Lawson, Lynn, Jakeia Murphy, Nowski, Kyle Richard, Ethan Schmitt, Farhan Sheihk-Omar, Ryan Smith, Anthony Streverett, Cirea Strode, and Nicklas Zande.

“At the risk of sounding corny or cheesy, it really was a talented group of candidates,” Trustee Farhan Bhatti said before the votes yesterday. He added that he hasn’t made a decision if he will run again in 2024 and encouraged the candidates who weren’t selected to remain active going forward.

“Even if I do, you can run against me — that’s how democracy works,” Bhatti said.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us