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Second graders pitch questions to new superintendent

Just don't ask him to go in an airplane with a snake to go skydiving

Superintendent Kevin Macina demonstrated his skill for making silly sound effects while reading “The Book with No Pictures” during a visit with Countryside Elementary second graders.

Hearing Macina, who started as superintendent Jan. 1, say “GLUURR Ga- WOCKO” and “BA-DOONGY FACE!!!” while reading the children’s book by author B. J. Nowak was enough to put the students in stitches. 

After Macina read a final page of onomatopoeia, students — still getting over the giggles– interviewed Macina on everything from his favorite food to his fear of snakes.

Q and A with Superintendent Macina 
By Countryside Elementary second graders

What are you afraid of? Snakes. I do not like snakes. One day I was sitting in my office working, and a snake slithered right into my office. I had to call my secretary to come get it because I was afraid of snakes.

What’s your favorite food? Pizza. I love pizza — pepperoni pizza.

Who is your favorite person? I really love Mrs. Macina. She is one of my favorites. I have two girls, Emily and Molly, too. It’s a three-way tie.

Byron Center Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Macina chats with Countryside Elementary School second graders

Are you afraid of heights? No, not too much.

How old are you? 46.

Where are you from? I’m from Michigan. I grew up in Howell.

What’s your favorite soccer team? Byron Center Bulldogs.

What’s your favorite place to visit? I really like Lake Michigan, but I like going to the mountains too.

What’s your favorite football team? The Minnesota Vikings because Kirk Cousins plays for them.

What’s your favorite hobby? Running. I love running, riding my bike and swimming. I try to run at least four miles a day. I have to get up really early. I have to wear a headlamp because it’s so dark out and I have to tiptoe through the house.

Since you are not afraid of heights, have you ever gone skydiving? I have never gone skydiving, but if somebody asked me to go skydiving I would. Now, if you asked me to go in an airplane with a snake to go skydiving I would not!

What is the number one thing you like? It can’t be pizza. I really like this part of my job … love when I can come into the classroom and see kids. I love being around kids. 

Now, About Running the School District

Macina, a 22-year educator hired in October, held the district’s assistant superintendent position since 2013.  Before that, he served as Marshall Elementary principal from 2004 to 2013. He was a fourth grade teacher at Marshall for three years, and a physical education teacher there for a year before that. He started his career in Pittsburgh as a PE teacher.

He recently completed his doctorate in Educational Leadership, Research and Technology from Western Michigan University. He received his master’s degree from Grand Valley State University, and his bachelor’s from Michigan State University.

As he gets started in the position, Macina said he is enjoying being involved in every department and school building. 

“What I’ve enjoyed the most is the impact I can have districtwide in all the areas of Byron Center, in all the different capacities, buildings and transportation — being out in the buildings to support bus drivers, and maintenance workers, students and teachers,” he said. “I love the impact I can have as a superintendent to be able to see the growth in all areas.”

‘Blork … Blurrf’

A Time of Growth 

Macina takes the post during a time of rapid district growth and academics among the top in the state. All three elementary schools, Brown, Marshall and Countryside, have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as National Blue Ribbon schools, a title that puts them among the nation’s highest in academics. 

Districtwide enrollment has increased an average of 2.3 % per year over the past five years, and last year spiked by 182 new students. Enrollment was 4,157 in 2018-2019, compared with 3,751 in 2013-2014, according to mischooldata.org.

“The biggest thing for Byron Center is building off the great foundation that we have. Byron Center is a destination district for students, but also for staff and families. We are looking to just keep that success going,”  he said.

A major project as Macina gets started is informing the community about the district’s May 5 $80 million bond proposal. “Byron Center is growing beyond measure,” he said. “We are at capacity in our K-4 and our 5-6 building.”

If approved by voters, the bond would fund the construction of a new fifth and sixth grade building and make the current Nickels Intermediate Building, which currently houses fifth and sixth graders,  into a fourth K-4 building. It would not require a millage increase.

Supporting Students in Every Way

Macina is also focusing on building the district’s network of support for students who are struggling socially and emotionally. 

“We see that as a real concern in Byron Center. In most schools you are seeing that now — how can we support kids that need the support the most? We are doing a great job with the academic portion. How can we continue to support them in all the needs that they have?”

Because Macina has worked in the district for almost two decades, he knows what has gone into building its strong foundation.

“What I am most proud of is where we are as a district. I’m humbled and honored to be part of a district that is in such a great place,” he said. “I’ve worked hard to get to this level and I want to make sure as a superintendent that we continue to support and help, and continue with what that standard is in Byron Center.”

Countryside Principal Jolynne Dobson, who stopped by the class during the lively storytime, said Macina brings a love for the district and listening ear to the job. 

“You really feel heard when you spent time with (Macina),”  Dobson said. “There’s always follow-through from that too. He values what you think, he hears what you say. That’s I think his biggest strength. And he’s so fun. You saw that with the kids.”

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SNN story: ‘He makes us feel like we are home’

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese 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 and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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