Bath Public Schools have been searching for a superintendent to succeed recently retired Ronald Jake Huffman. The school board selected six finalists out of 22 applicants and began interviews on March 12.
Mathew Chrispin, Fredericktown Local Schools, Ohio
Chrispin has been a superintendent, a counselor, and head coach of a track and field team. Chrispin said he attends to students’ social and emotional needs and asks, “how does this impact the students?” He said he realizes that a student’s education is not all cookie-cutter.
Chrispin said he focuses on what is working and what needs improving. He pushes for progress in learning.
He said has the background of supporting children and being a role model in a similar-sized district.
“I think the school is looking for someone with a common vision, someone who will facilitate our growth, and someone that can lead us into the next generation of learners and who is very student-oriented,” said Tom Louks, Bath Elementary School assistant principal.
Greg Matheson, elementary principal North Branch Area Schools, Michigan.
An administrator for 25 years, Matheson said transparency and objectivity are among a superintendent’s top concerns.
He said, “you remain transparent throughout the process before you make that decision … you provide a clear rationale for your decision and, whenever possible, and I think in practically every case, there should be data and facts to help back that up. You do not want it to come across as a biased, anecdotal solution.”
Matheson, however, has limited experience budgeting. A bond was passed at North Branch about five years before he started.
“My desire to reflect on what I perceive as my strengths, and my weaknesses is a regular consideration. My desire to grow and have the ability to grow on a number of different levels is probably no greater than it has been now,” Matheson said.
Bart Wegenke, high school principal, Haslett Public Schools
Wegenke, who lives in Bath Township, said he tries every day to be accessible.
To keep the system engaged, Wegenke developed a school application which allows the community to work together and communicate more effectively. He uses Twitter to make and grow connections.
Wegenke welcomes feedback and said, “I am a problem solver who never hesitates to think outside the box,” as long as it is the right thing to do.
Sam Bachelor, president of the Bath Board of Education, said “the fact that he is in this area and has a relationship with the people … it makes it feel as though we have things in common, that his kids are going through the same things that my are.”
Paul Hartsig, superintendent of Dowagiac Union Schools, Michigan
Following his father’s footsteps, Hartsig set out to be a superintendent. Hartsig has 15 years of administrative work and 10 years of teaching experience.
Hartsig said he is all about forming connections, “I made an effort … don’t let people come to you, go to them.” He takes initiative in communicating with others and seeking to understand issues.
He said helping the community attracts support for things like bonds.
Hartsig pushes for college and wants to help kids who struggle transitioning from one school to another. “I build relationships during good times and bad times,” h said.
Hartsig goes to places such as Burger King where he can catch up with the community. Hartsig sends out weekly newsletters to keep the public in the loop.
“Every school district is different, but he’s dealt with a lot of things that we are looking for,” said Ann Chaffee, vice-president of the Board of Education. “The newsletter keeps us involved, keeps us knowing what is going on. We like that idea. We’ve had that with our last superintendent.”
Dr. Michael Prelesnik, elementary principal, Mason Public Schools
Prelesnik said he wants to be visible and approachable as superintendent. He said he enjoys the idea of being a part of a smaller school district.
“When I look at moving into a superintendency, I’m particular. I don’t think I’d do well in a huge district where I’d be in an office building,” Prelesnik said. “I grew up in the greater Lansing area, so I’m very familiar with Bath.”
To help get a better idea of what’s going on in school, Prelesnik said he would stand in the school lobby and observe the students. He wants to know what their moods are entering and leaving the building to see how they are enjoying school.
“If they’re smiling and they’re happy, that just makes me feel good,” he said. “That makes me excited about our building versus as if they were kinda dragging their feet.”
He has also begun chairing a cultural diversity initiative to look at culture in Mason and help it become a more accepting community.
Chad Holt, superintendent/principal Mar Lee School, Marshall, Michigan
Holt started his career wanting to be a teacher. Now, as superintendent and principal at Mar Lee School, he enjoys the bigger impact an administrator brings to a community. During his interview, he highlighted the pride he has at Mar Lee, a self-contained K-8 district.
When financial troubles struck and neighboring districts began annexing schools, Holt highlighted the uniqueness of Mar Lee to keep them from being absorbed into new systems.
“Our school offers an environment that neither of those districts do. We have drama club, ski club, we offer pretty much next-to-nothing child care before and after school, we have free tutoring after school, and those were things that were very attractive to our parents,” Holt said.
Holt is the sole administrator at Mar Lee. He began as principal, then after two years became superintendent. He is both the elementary and middle school principal, curriculum director, manages budgets and special education and manages discipline.
On March 19, the board asked Hartsig and Wegenke back for a second round of interviews. The candidates were interviewed for about 45 minutes apiece with questions they weren’t told beforehand.
Bachelor said, “A lot of the questions were relatively the same as previously. We were hoping to get a little bit deeper.”
Nancy Hawkins, board secretary, was particularly thorough with followup questions throughout the afternoon.
“The main reason for my followup questions in particular was to flush out their answers a little more because maybe their answers were not complete,” Hawkins said. “That’s the main reason for me to do the followup questions: to get more of the details.”
Following a short discussion, the board chose Hartsig by unanimous decision. The board cited his experience as a superintendent as a major factor, as well as the fact that he always put students and teachers first in his answers.
“Anytime he talked about everything, it always went back to students, and that was probably the main thing that just meant a lot to me and meant a lot to the other board members, and that’s why you saw that unanimous vote,” Hawkins said.
Contract negotiations began when Bachelor made a phone call offering the job to Hartsig.