Three longtime local administrators who have led their districts through challenging times have announced they will retire at the end of the school year. Tom Reeder, superintendent of Wyoming Public Schools, and Sara Shubel, superintendent of East Grand Rapids Public Schools, announced their retirements last week, while Tom Enslen of Thornapple Kellogg Public Schools announced his in February.
Enslen steps down after six years as superintendent, Reeder after seven and Shubel after 12.
Reeder Led Building Efforts
Reeder’s tenure has included the consolidation of district facilities, including merging two high schools in 2012 and the successful $79.5 million bond proposal last November. He has worked in the district for 27 years, beginning as a math specialist and coach, and serving briefly as director of academic support before becoming assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in 2002.
Reeder announced his retirement at the March 12 Board of Education meeting.
“My goal was to leave much more than I took and leave the district better than when I came,” he said in a press release, adding he did that every day for the 550 staff and over 4,300 students he has served. “With all of you, we are better together at Wyoming Public Schools.”
Reeder said it’s an ideal time to end this chapter of his life, knowing the district is in good hands. Now it’s time for someone else to take the reins, he said.
“Call it halftime and we are coming out to win this one for our community, staff and students, and I will be cheering from the sidelines as it happens rather than being the quarterback.”
Board President Craig Popma said the board will begin the search for Reeder’s replacement immediately with the intent of having a new superintendent start July 1. In a press release, he called Reeder “a true visionary and a champion in helping grow our schools and community. His drive, dedication, and commitment is why Wyoming is where it is today.”
Shubel Cites Community Support
Shubel will retire at the end of the school year after her dozen years of leadership in the nearly 3,000-student EGR district.
In an open letter on the district’s website, she said her decision “certainly does not come without mixed emotions — many of them, in fact — but I have been told many times by those much wiser than me that when it is time for you to retire, you will know, and that time has come.”
Shubel said she was proud that although EGRPS has had to withstand many years of inadequate funding support from the state, the district maintained its focus on student programs and services.
“This would not have been possible without the community’s strong support of the EGR Schools Foundation EGRNow! campaigns, Kent County Enhancement millage, and the many small and big sacrifices on the part of all of our staff,” she wrote. “The sustained long-term partnerships between the schools, families, and community are what make East Grand Rapids Public Schools truly unique.”
Shubel said in a press release that she plans to continue advocacy work on behalf of public education, “however, it is time for a new leader to continue building on what we have accomplished collaboratively in our district, and I am looking forward to this new chapter in life.”
Board of Education President Natalie Bernecker said the board will immediately begin to search for a successor with a goal to fill the position by July 1.
‘No Regrets’ for Enslen
Enslen started with the Thornapple Kellogg district 17 years ago as a coach before becoming assistant principal at the Middle School. Positions as the Lee Elementary principal and assistant superintendent followed before he began serving as superintendent for the last six years.
“I know I have been all over the place on this decision for the last year and a half, but that’s because this place is just that special … it’s hard to let go,” he wrote in a memo to his staff, according to the school newsletter.
“I’m very, very happy with my decision to retire, and I will be leaving TK with no regrets. I love the kids, I love the staff and I love the community, and I will miss them all dearly.”
Before working at Thornapple Kellogg, Enslen spent 20 years as an instructor at Kentwood Public Schools, teaching nearly every grade level, every subject and coaching.
With more than 35 years in the education field, it’s hard to completely leave, so he’s still going to have a little toe in it: He plans to work with Owen-Ames-Kimball construction company as a consultant on school projects when he’s not at his Northern Michigan cabin.
The school has hired the Michigan Leadership Institute to do a superintendent search.