By Kelly Sheridan
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
HASLETT — Earlier this year, Mike Duda, the superintendent of Haslett Public Schools announced he would be retiring at the end of the school year. Duda has acted as superintendent for 12 years and has worked in Haslett Public Schools for 40.The Haslett Public School Board is currently in the process of hiring their next superintendent.
“Haslett Public Schools doesn’t do this often,” President of the Haslett Public School Board Kristin Beltzer said. “Duda has been superintendent for 12 years and the superintendent before him held his position for 14 years.”
Beltzer said the process began as soon as Duda announced his retirement.
“Mike Duda announced [his retirement] in September, so we spent a little time to figure out the process and what we wanted it to look like,” Beltzer said. “We connected with the Michigan Association of School Boards in February and we’re hoping to make a selection in the beginning of May.”
According to Beltzer, there have been 37 candidates who have applied for the position. Some have been internal candidates, but the position is very open to external candidates as well, she said.
“Our goal is to get the best fit for out school district. That’s going to include some internal candidates as well as external candidates,” she said. “We have a criteria for what’s important to us for Haslett Public Schools and where we would like to see Haslett Public Schools going in the next 10 or so years.”
Over the past few years, Haslett Public Schools have excelled tremendously. With a 95 percent graduation rate, Haslett High was named to Newsweek’s list of America’s Top High Schools in 2014 at #62. In 2011, Forbes Magazine ranked Haslett fifth in the country for “educational value in towns with a median home price of $100,000 to $199,000.”
Haslett High School Principal Bart Wegenke believes this success can be directly attributed to the superintendent.
“[Duda] has provided stability and continuity,” Wegenke said. “He has provided opportunities as an administrator, to work and grow and be passionate in an environment where it is very healthy to do that.”
Jonah Brown, a Michigan State student and Haslett High School graduate, said Duda made sure he was always available.
“He always made it a point to be seen walking around through all of the schools and interacting with all of the students,” Brown said. “It was also very easy to talk to him if you needed to.”
Wegenke said that not only has Duda played a part in making the schools successful, he has also played a major role in the lives of administrators and making them successful.
“Mr. Duda hired me 12 years ago to take his position. I’ve had many memories—just an outstanding working relationship,” Wegenke said. “I trust him, I value his leadership. I know I’ve grown as an administrator in areas I didn’t think I needed to grow in—he was a big part of that. Lots of memories.”
Brown said the next superintendent will have to continue on Duda’s path in order to be successful.
“The next superintendent will need to continue the same type of communication and interaction with the community as Duda did,” he said.
While Haslett Public Schools will miss the presence Duda made on the community, the school board is confident the next superintendent will be just as successful.
“We feel very confident as a board that we’re going to have another outstanding leader as a candidate,” Beltzer said. “The next leader could bring us further. We’re always going to be striving for that A+ standard and we know the next superintendent will allow us to do that.”