- Sponsorship -

Former Grandville Superintendent Takes Kent ISD Reins

When Kelly Souten was preparing to teach Advanced Placement calculus, Grandville Public Schools Superintendent Ron Caniff directed the class’ retiring teacher to work with Stouten every day for a whole year, ensuring a smooth transition.

“The students really benefited from her experience through me. It was really great,” Stouten said, noting that the retiring teacher had 30 years of history with the course’s content and test.

That’s the kind of thing Grandville staff, Board of Education members and parents noted about Caniff, who resigned in June after 12 years as superintendent to accept the job as Kent ISD superintendent. Former colleagues said his steadfast commitment to the staff and students contributed in countless ways to the district’s rock-solid culture and high student achievement.

Leaving Grandville was 'bittersweet,' said Caniff
Leaving Grandville was ‘bittersweet,’ said Caniff

“I really feel like he does things in the best interest of students,” Stouten said.

That sentiment was evident throughout the district, from classroom to administrative office, as Caniff finished up his work as superintendent in Grandville.

“The culture is pretty much his culture,” said Debbie Ghent, administrative assistant. “He set the bar very high in terms of integrity and treating each other like you want to be treated, respecting our students and our parents.”

Caniff sees it a bit differently.

“Grandville’s always had such a wonderful culture, since before I got here, and it will, I’m sure, for long after I leave. This is a special community. The people care about their children here.

“My job was to keep the train on the track and maintain that,” he said.

Broadening His Reach

Caniff started working as superintendent for Kent ISD in July, replacing retired Superintendent Kevin Konarska.

“It’s such an incredible organization and opportunity at the ISD. It’s not something I would have imagined or coveted. The ISD has the opportunity to have such an impact on a bigger level,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to help shape and have an indirect impact on education and the direction we are taking as a county. That’s exciting.”

Caniff now works with 20 local superintendents on the goals of improving kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, eighth-grade math proficiency and college and career readiness. Community organizations and businesses have invested in the same goals, he said.

“There is a tremendous amount of effort and work involved in those goals,” Caniff said. “The needs of our districts are very different; the demographics of student populations are very different and unique; the challenges they are confronting are different.”

Through relationship building, collaboration and providing programs with what they need, the benefits are collective. “It’s directing those resources to make the most difference,” he said.

A Bittersweet Farewell

“I’m so excited over this next chapter for my career. The Kent ISD is a great organization with great people, but when you spend 12 years at a place its hard to say goodbye.”

For Caniff, it’s always been more than a job.

“The highlights, for me, without question, are the people,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed to have so many wonderful people I’ve gotten to know and work with. It’s a wonderful community.”

Prior to his time in Grandville, Caniff was superintendent of Lapeer Community Schools. He has also served as assistant superintendent at Northview Public Schools; principal at Forest Hills Central High School; assistant principal at both Forest Hills Central and Northern; and a social studies teacher and coach at Forest Hills Central.

A Northview High School graduate, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University, his masters’ in education from Grand Valley State University and education specialist degree at Central Michigan University.

Former Grandville student Ron Caniff has moved on to serve as Kent ISD superintendent
Former Grandville student Ron Caniff has moved on to serve as Kent ISD superintendent

Robots, Legos and AP

Caniff reflected on Grandville’s success during his superintendent tenure including expanding Advanced Placement classes at Grandville High School, and the growth of the robotics program. Hundreds of students are involved in FIRST Robotics and its feeder programs, VEX Robotics and Lego Leagues. The district operates its own separate facility, where many a competitive robot is invented.

“The robotics is so vibrant and thriving and so many kids are involved, Yes, it’s about STEM, but more than that, it’s great to see these kids find their niche and this is where they excel.”

The high school offers 15 Advanced Placement classes, last school year administering over 800 tests, of which 84 students scored high enough to earn college credit.

Caniff said he is also proud that the district is prepared for more growth and investment. In 2013, voters approved a $72.5 million bond proposal for facility improvements, improved safety, technology including providing devices to every student and transportation serving the 5,657 students in its nine schools.

“It isn’t the brick and mortar,” he said. “It’s what that represents. It’s the community’s support for our children.”

Perfecting the People Business

Communication was always a major priority with everyone involved at Grandville Public Schools, he said.

“Education is a people business and we can never lose sight of that. It’s about the people, and most importantly, it’s about the kids.”

Hudsonville Public Schools Superintendent Nick Ceglarek said Caniff has been a “blessing for Grandville” because of his collaboration style and leadership.

“In Grandville or Kent ISD, he will lead with a servant’s heart,” Ceglarek said.


Robo Dawgs

Ron Caniff on Twitter

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln School special education teacher, Ann Post believes there is 'hope on the horizon' for Kent ISD teachers and educators across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine...

Sisters land grant to help those who ‘aren’t as lucky as we are’

Sisters at Page Elementary researched and wrote a grant to help homeless kids at Family Promise of Barry County...

Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

The site offers new ways for students to connect, on anything from academic questions to mental health issues...

Good behavior encouraged at home

For students learning from home, positive behavior rewards are still possible...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln School special education teacher, Ann Post believes there is 'hope on the horizon' for Kent ISD teachers and educators across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine...

Partnership continues focus on student emotional, mental health

A group is working to identify trauma and provide support early in order to increase student success...

A familiar face returns to lead Kent ISD

Retired Kent ISD Assistant Superintendent Ron Koehler officially took the helm as interim superintendent on Jan. 1...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU