Shortly before he was named Northview Public Schools’ next superintendent, Scott Korpak told school board members his view of their impending vote.
“Being the superintendent is an opportunity to serve,” Korpak said following an hour-long interview Tuesday evening. “I think that’s my calling. But it’s not a calling unless you’ve been called.”
NORTHVIEW’S NEW LEADER
Within half an hour, the seven-member board unanimously called Korpak to head the 3,400-student district. Pending approval of contract terms, Korpak will succeed Mike Paskewicz, who will retire June 30 after leading Northview since 2009.
Korpak, assistant superintendent for instruction at Forest Hills Public Schools, was chosen over Thomas Livezey, superintendent of Oakridge Public Schools east of Muskegon. While calling Livezey a strong candidate, board members took little time to name Korpak as their choice.
“I think we got somebody that’s absolutely top-notch,” board President Doug LaFleur said following the April 28 interviews with both candidates. “For me, so much of it was the fit — the fit with the community.”
Korpak’s “tremendous” curriculum background, management style and people skills make him a good leader to succeed the popular Paskewicz, LaFleur added.
“Mike left us in such good shape,” he said. “(Korpak) can move us further along.”
Korpak said he is honored, excited and a little anxious — in a good way.
“I feel a real sense of gratefulness to the Board of Education in trusting me with this opportunity,” said Korpak, 44. “I see this as an opportunity to serve, and they’re giving me that chance to do so.”
Broad Background in Teaching, Administration
Korpak brings a wide range of educational experience. He was a teacher, principal and assistant principal in the Forest Hills district before serving as superintendent of the 2,600-student Hamilton Community Schools. He returned to Forest Hills in 2010 as an assistant superintendent of the 10,100-student district.
The Northview board’s decision followed a three-month search process, after Paskewicz announced his retirement in December. Seventeen people applied for the post, two of them from out of state, said search consultant Michael Washburn.
From that group the school board chose five candidates to interview. Others were Roger Bearup, assistant superintendent of Lowell Area Schools; Allen Cumings, superintendent of Tri-County Area Schools; and Cherie Vannatter, superintendent of Manchester Community Schools.
After a first round of public interviews, the board narrowed the list to Korpak and Livezey. Five board members visited their districts along with 16 faculty and staff. Input gathered there, and interview reaction forms submitted by staff and residents, helped the board make its decision, LaFleur said.
“It’s pretty clear what the community’s looking for,” he said as the board voted.
In the final interview, board members dug a little deeper into Korpak’s views and liked what they heard. He stressed he has a “collective” leadership style in which people work together to identify needs and find answers.
“I’m not here to run the show. I’m here to facilitate,” he said. “The reason people follow (a leader) is because people know you care about them and that you want them to be successful.”
Humor and Expertise Appeal to Board
The most important qualities for a superintendent, he said, are character, consistent communication, and a visibility that translates to the community as caring. Korpak said Paskewicz has excelled at that, and that there will be “a sense of loss” at his retirement. He said he would like to consult with Paskewicz as he gets to know the district.
“He’s impossible to follow,” Korpak said later. “But what a great opportunity for someone in my position to learn from him.”
Board members also warmed to his sense of humor, as when board Secretary Renee Montgomery asked what his favorite farm animal is.
“I would go with the pig,” said Korpak, who grew up on a small farm property in Bloomingdale. “Pigs are really quite serious. Even though they may not look like they’re thinking anything, they’re always thinking.”
His personable manner and educational expertise are a promising combination, said LaFleur, noting similarities between the Northview and Forest Hills communities’ high value on schools.
“At the end of the day we were very comfortable with what we were getting,” LaFleur said. “We really respect Forest Hills. That gives us confidence.”
Korpak said he has long admired Northview and looks forward to being part of it.
“I don’t have any belief that I carry any special knowledge or have any special abilities,” he added. “It’s got to be about the team. I’m excited to get to know the team and the community, so we can craft that larger vision together.”