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Director of Kent ISD’s new center-based program is on a hiring spree

Paul Dymowski, Kent ISD’s new director of center-based special education programs, says he is well on his way to filling about 400 positions that will be needed to operate the nine programs they are taking over from Grand Rapids Public Schools on July 1.

Fortunately, most of the new hires will be the GRPS administrators, teachers and support staff who have already been working with the 1,350 students who are enrolled in the center programs, said Dymowski, who was hired last year after Kent ISD and GRPS agreed to the transfer.

The nine programs provide a learning environment for students from age 3 to 26 who have severe physical impairments and learning disabilities that prevent them from attending regular K-12 schools.

For seven of the programs, Dymowski said the administrators will remain the same or come from the center-based programs. Here is a list of administrators and where they will serve:

  • Mary Cok: Ken-O-Sha Home Community, 1353 VanAuken St.SE, Grand Rapids
  • Mary Kay Kolber: Grand Rapids Oral Deaf, 1353 VanAuken St. SE, Grand Rapids
  • Lisa Merritt: Kent Education Center – Oakleigh, 2223 Gordon NW, Grand Rapids
  • Jim Polasek: Kent Education Center – Beltline, 1606 Leffingwell Ave, NE, Grand Rapids
  • Laura Ochoa, Pine Grove Learning Center, 2101 52nd St, SW, Wyoming
  • Keith Hutchins, Lincoln School, 862 Crahen Road NE, Grand Rapids
  • Steve Kadau, Lincoln Developmental Center, 860 Crahen Road NE, Grand Rapids

The programs at the Early Childhood Special Education Center and the Community Transition Campus have vacancies at the top, one because the administrator chose to stay with GRPS, the other because of impending retirement plans.

Most teachers and support staff at the existing centers were invited to apply for the new positions, Dymowski  said, adding he was struck by the passion that the incumbent staff showed for their students. “We were looking for staff in good standing,” he said. “The majority of the staff wants to stay and continue with their work.”

Dymowski said he’s not sure how many of the existing staff will end up getting hired by Kent ISD. The deadline for them to accept their job offers expired on March 15. Most of the existing staff will be offered pay and benefits similar to what they received at GRPS, he said. They also plan to offer similar insurance packages.

After that process is completed, Dymowksi estimated he will have about 45 positions to fill before July 1, when Kent ISD takes over the programs.

Dymowski had been a transition coordinator for Kent ISD’s Special Education Department before he was named to the job last fall. He came to Kent ISD in 2017 from Allegan Area Educational Service Agency, where he served as assistant director of specialized instruction.

The Flint native also served as a director of special education for the Wayland and Hopkins school districts. Earlier in his career, Dymowski was a special education instructor at Northview and Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Related SNN article: New leader for Center-based Special Education programs named

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James Harger
James Harger
James Harger left School News Network in January of 2020. James previously reported on West Michigan's economy, courts and politics for The Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com for more than 37 years. He also is employed as Servanthood Leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Grand Rapids. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he also has worked for publications in Holland, Mount Pleasant and Lansing. He is married to Lisa and has one daughter, who lives in Ann Arbor.


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