- Sponsorship -

Kent ISD chief looks ahead after high-profile firing

Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff says he will focus on moving the countywide district forward after settling the high-profile dismissal of William Smith, Kent ISD Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services.

Smith was dismissed from the job he has held since 2011 as part of a negotiated settlement with the Kent ISD board. The settlement calls for Smith to get the remaining 19 months of his two-year employment contract.  In return, Smith agreed to abandon potential lawsuits and claims against the district and its staff for wrongful termination or other alleged grievances.

Smith had been on paid leave since June 19 as an independent investigation began with formal complaints that Smith had created a hostile work environment for ISD staff. The investigation also covered Smith’s relationship with a software vendor that created a software product created for and supported by Kent ISD since 2014.

While Smith will not be allowed to work on the Kent ISD campus, the settlement says he may be called on “to complete reports, special projects and other assignments” under the direction of Caniff. 

“We entered into the settlement and release agreement, in part, to avoid not only significant legal costs, but also the strain that prolonged court proceedings would have brought to numerous employees through depositions, testimony and other legal activity,” Caniff said in an open letter to Kent ISD staff on Saturday, Oct. 5. 

“This would have undoubtedly resulted in the loss of time and energy that would otherwise be better spent focusing on the needs of students,” Caniff said. The settlement was announced on Oct. 4.

“As we close this chapter and turn the page to the next, we’ve got some healing that needs to occur.  We also will begin focusing on how our organizational chart may change as we look to structure our work based on our current and future needs.”

In an interview with School News Network, Caniff said he does not envision changes in personnel policies as a result of the complaints from staff about Smith’s behavior. “We have policies in place. There were policies before all of this, they’re in place now and they’ll be in place in the future,” Caniff said. 

“I’m very grateful to staff that made these concerns known to us in a formal way. That does take courage and I appreciate their willingness to do that,” Caniff said. “And, that resulted in action. Our policies were followed.”

Smith’s position was created in 2011 by merging the duties of two assistant superintendents who were retiring, Caniff said. The positions were merged into one position to create more collaboration within the organization, Caniff said.

“It was all well intentioned,” said Caniff. “In many ways, we’ve come a long way in that regard. That objective may have been achieved. The other side of it is that one office had a tremendous load of responsibility. Essentially two-third to three-quarters of our organization flowed through that office.

“When these situations present themselves, they’re an opportunity. I’ve said before, ‘Don’t waste a good crisis.’  So we look at this and say, ‘Does our structure continue to work the way we want it to work?’ That will take some dialogue with our team.” 

Caniff said he does not have a timetable for filling Smith’s position or making a decision on organizational changes. “We’ll take our time to get it right.”

Kent ISD is an educational service agency, and the fourth largest in the state. The 1100 staff members serve the schools in Kent County by providing specialized education programs and services that range from early childhood programs through adult education, dozens of services for schools and educators, center-based special education programs and unique high school options including Kent Career Tech Center, Kent Transition Center, Kent Innovation High and MySchool@Kent.

- Sponsorship -
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.


Hands-on history: museum becomes classroom for curious students

It’s one thing to study about history in a virtual classroom; it’s another to be immersed in it inside a museum. Students from every area district now have the opportunity to experience hands-on lessons in after-school programs for third- through eighth-graders at the Grand Rapids Public Museum...

Teacher recruits from Puerto Rico find welcoming new home in Grand Rapids

A recruiting trip to Puerto Rico brought two new teachers to Grand Rapids as part of an innovative district effort to address a shortage of bilingual instructors...

Fifth-graders find beauty in science by dissecting marigolds

One teacher used readily available nature just outside school to introduce this year’s science unit, as well as flowers from home to study the parts of plants...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Operation Face Shield: complete

The nine-week project resulted in 10,000 pieces of PPE that were distributed in West Michigan to more than 100 organizations...

Home schooling inquiries grow as parents ponder how to meet children’s needs

The pandemic has caused parents to seek options for schooling and socialization. For some, home schooling becomes an option, while others create new ways to help their children...

KCTC moves some programs to virtual format

Due to two of its staff people having been impacted by COVID-19, the Kent Career Tech Center has moved several of its programs to virtual/remote learning until Monday, Oct. 26...
- 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