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West MI superintendents tackle second school year in a row amid pandemic

Superintendents with all levels of experience tackle the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Credit: STOCK IMAGE

For the second year in a row, schools are having to work around the challenges of the pandemic. These are issues being tackled by both veteran school leaders and newcomers. Multiple West Michigan school districts have seen changes in leadership in recent years.

Jenison Public Schools are starting out the school year with a brand new superintendent, and Rockford Schools will soon say goodbye to an administrator with more than half a century worth of education experience.

“No, I never had aspirations of this,” said Brandon Graham, the new Jenison Public Schools superintendent, who joined the district in 1999 as a middle school teacher and says he never would have anticipated becoming superintendent.

He says he’s, “Learned a lot on all stages of the game,” and that he’s not letting the pandemic stand in his way.

“We’re just happy to be here and have the opportunity to be with our kids in person. So, we’re very excited about growing not only great scholars but also great people,” said Graham.

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Mike Shibler, Ph.D says in, “September I turn 75. So, I think it’s probably the right time.”

After more than 53 years as an educator – 32 of those with Rockford Public Schools – the longtime superintendent has announced his retirement. Initially, he had been planning to close out this chapter at the end of the last school year. Ultimately, Shibler says, “I just did not want to leave the district when I knew that there would be some serious, significant challenges.”

He’s agreed to stay on through the first half of this school year, until the end of December, and has some suggestions on who should be his successor.

“Somebody that believes in continuous progress, but I also want that new superintendent to be a people person. One who seeks out the stakeholders of the district to receive not only input, but to demonstrate compassion,” said Shibler.

He tells 13 ON YOUR SIDE that his biggest concern as he ends his career is the divide on masks.

He also says he wants the community to know he won’t be slacking up over these next few months and that he intends to give his all up until his retirement, Dec. 31, 2021.

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