Right place, right time for new district chief

Former School Reform Officer takes on superintendent role of Caledonia schools

Students chat with the new superintendent. Pictured, in back row, are Izy Barofsky, Martin and Natalia Quigley, and in front row are Hailie Jurmu and Lauren Kingsbury

The greatest lesson that Dedrick Martin will apply to his new position as Caledonia superintendent came from students during his teaching days, he said.

“How you treat them matters more than what you teach them,” Martin said. “If you treat them with kindness, dignity and respect they will be more willing to put in the time to learn what you are trying to teach them.”

Now with years of teaching and administration under his belt, Martin’s decision to apply for Caledonia’s superintendent position came down to timing.

“When I heard about this opportunity, I felt like it was the right decision and a great district to go for,” Martin said. “It really was a great opportunity.”

Familiar with Kent County, as his wife is from Kentwood, Martin is excited to get to work in the Caledonia community.

Dedrick Martin began as Caledonia’s superintendent in July

A Lengthy Resume

Before coming to West Michigan for the superintendent role, Martin served as the School Reform Officer and Director of Partnership Districts for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), based in Detroit.

Martin has also served as superintendent at St. Johns Public Schools and, before that, he was superintendent at Ypsilanti Public Schools for four years. Though familiar with the administrative side of things, Martin started his career as a special education teacher and building principal in Texas. Prior to coming to Michigan, he worked in Illinois as the executive director for equity and achievement at the Champaign Community Unit School District #4.

“I’ve been very grateful to be a part of the communities that I have,” Martin said. “I am excited for the same opportunity at Caledonia.”

Martin earned his doctorate degree in educational leadership from Michigan State University, his master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Houston and his bachelor’s degree in special education and psychology from Grand Valley State University.

Fun facts

Hobbies: fishing

If I could go back to school, I would go to 10th grade because … I was just entering high school and was starting to find myself as a student and as an individual. It was fun.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every day, what would the song be? “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey

Family? Married for 20 years with two teenage sons in eighth and 10th grades

Joining the Community

Martin’s arrival to Caledonia comes after former Superintendent Randy Rodriguez resigned in February after the board voted to not renew his contract, which was set to expire at the end of June.

“It was clear Dr. Martin was an incredible fit for the candidate profile we developed,” said Board President Marcy White, in a press release. “He made an excellent impression on those he met with during the process, and his experience and training clearly demonstrate his preparation to successfully lead our school district.”

An Eye on Mental Health

Having worked on mental health issues at each district in his career, addressing student and community needs is a top priority, Martin said.

“Our staff has identified additional programming that will be implemented this year to help identify and support struggling students along with staff development opportunities so that our teachers are better prepared to support students,” he said.

Caledonia schools plans to schedule a community-wide event that will bring in outside expertise to help families and students deal with issues of grief, loss, suicide prevention and how to appropriately respond to those situations.  A focus on mental health cannot be ignored, Martin said.

“We must be mindful of various social and emotional concerns that will certainly have a negative impact on student performance if they are not addressed.”

Superintendent Dedrick Martin practices writing with Will Jones of the Duncan Lake Early Childhood Center

Preparing for Millage Proposal

As superintendent, Martin hopes to use his first year to learn how to manage the resources of the Caledonia district and community.

“We need to use what we have as effectively as possible so that we can minimize and remove as many barriers as possible to allow students and teachers to soar,” he said.

The first step toward that goal will come in the form of the non-homestead millage request this November.

“We need to educate our community and share information with key communicators and staff members about the upcoming millage,” he said.

If passed in November, the additional millage authorization would allow the school district to collect revenue in 2019 and 2020 to cover a shortfall created by a Headlee reduction.

Martin talks to Natalia Quigley (left) and Lauren Kingsbury, eighth-grade students at Duncan Lake Middle School

“Given that the collection of local revenue accounts for approximately one third of the per student allotment for schools in our state, helping our community understand the importance of preserving out funding will be a crucial step as a growing district.”

Caledonia is also re-prioritizing an extensive list of facility needs as they close out the 2014 bond, revisiting district-wide school safety and emergency plans and taking steps to improve internal and external communication procedures. All of these goals will be part of a district strategic plan to carry Caledonia into the next five years, Martin said.

“Being a growing district there are always challenges that we’re going to have to address,” Martin said. “We’re going to keep working to make sure the growth doesn’t outpace our facilities, which is a nice challenge to have.”

CONNECT

‘An incredible fit’

A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit. Read Hannah's full bio.

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