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New schools chief worked his way up to leadership


“Dream big, work hard and make it happen”: That’s the mantra of Craig Hoekstra, a familiar face in the district, who this week was selected as the new superintendent.

Hoekstra is an example of turning that philosophy into reality. After deciding to leave his job as a linen delivery driver to pursue college, the 1990 Wyoming Park High School graduate worked as a night custodian at the former Newhall Junior High. He also took classes to get his associate’s degree at Grand Rapids Community College. From there he worked up the ranks as an educator and administrator, most recently as Wyoming’s associate superintendent for instructional services.

Meet the New Guy

Craig Hoekstra, incoming superintendent of Wyoming Public Schools

Work experience:

  • assistant superintendent for Instructional Services since 2015
  • principal, Gladiola Elementary, and director of district grants, 2012-15
  • principal, Hamilton Elementary, and kindergarten-through-fifth-grade curriculum director, three years
  • principal, Oriole Park Elementary School, two years
  • second-grade teacher at Hamilton Elementary School, in Hamilton Public Schools, for five years

Education:

  • bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University
  • associate’s degree, Grand Rapids Community College

He knows his background resonates with the young people he encourages to aim high.

“It goes to that life lesson of how if we persevere we can achieve everything we have in front of us,” Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra is set to begin in his new role July 1, following Superintendent Thomas Reeder, who announced his retirement last month after serving in the position for seven years.

Hoekstra was interviewed by the Board of Education last week in an open meeting before an audience of staff, administrators parents and community members. The board did not conduct a superintendent search, but considered internal candidates. Hoekstra was the only applicant interviewed.

Hoekstra turned his days of studying all day and working all night into a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and eventually a master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University.

He then began his career in education, starting as a second-grade teacher for Hamilton Public Schools, then serving as principal at three elementary schools before being promoted to assistant superintendent for instructional services in 2015.

He then served as a second-grade teacher at Hamilton Elementary School, in Hamilton Public Schools, for five years; principal at Oriole Park Elementary School, in Wyoming for two years; principal at Hamilton Elementary where he also working as kindergarten-through-fifth grade curriculum director for three years; and principal at Gladiola Elementary, where he was also put in charge of district grants, from 2012 until he was promoted to assistant superintendent for Instructional Services in 2015.

“Every move I’ve made, I’ve been fortunate to have been able  to grow my skill set,” he said.

It’s an exciting time to take the district’s head job, as plans for a major high school renovation and investing in district facilities over the next seven years take shape.

“I’m very excited on many ends with all the great things coming up,” said Hoekstra, who credited Reeder for “amazing leadership” during his tenure, which included consolidating schools and creating new community.

“Because of what (Reeder) was able to do to bring the district together, to carry on after him is an absolute honor,” Hoekstra said.

In a press release, Board of Education President Craig Popma said the district and community are fortunate to have Hoekstra take the reins.

“To have Craig’s dedication, drive and passion for our community will provide great leadership for many years to come,” he said. ”I am excited to begin this new chapter, working closely with Craig and driving Wyoming to our next positive chapter.”

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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.

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