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Kent ISD Superintendent announces retirement, Board names interim

As Ron Caniff retires, Ron Koehler will assume interim duties

In July, current Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff announced his decision to retire with the School Board officially accepting his resignation at the Aug. 17 meeting. Caniff, whose last day will be Dec. 31, has been in education for 41 years, the last five as the Kent ISD superintendent.

Also at the Aug. 17 meeting, the Kent ISD School Board named Ron Koehler, who recently retired as Kent ISD assistant superintendent, as interim superintendent, beginning in January.

“The privilege of serving as superintendent of Kent ISD has been a true honor and the highlight of my career,” Caniff said in his letter to the board. “The timing of my departure – the end of December – will allow us to get what will assuredly be a challenging start-up to the school year behind us and, hopefully, by the time I leave a sense of normal operations returns.”

Kent ISD Board President Andrea Haidle said she appreciated Caniff’s service to Kent ISD.

“Transitioning the entire special education center program from Grand Rapids Public Schools to Kent ISD was an overwhelming task,” Haidle said. “And the challenge of operating Kent ISD and serving member districts during this pandemic was enormous. We all owe Ron our gratitude for his devotion to the organization, and the children and families we serve, during these difficult times.”

Caniff, a career educator who began as a high school social studies teacher for Forest Hills Public Schools, left a long tenure as Superintendent for Grandville Public Schools in 2015 to become the leader of Kent ISD.

Because of the growth of the Kent ISD over the past eight years, the Board decided the next superintendent needed a strong understanding of the internal workings of an intermediate school district. So instead of tapping from the county’s current pool of superintendents, the Board decided to conduct a national search for the next Kent ISD superintendent. Haidle said this does not restrict local candidates from applying, but offers the Board an opportunity to cast a wider net in its search.

To give time for the national search to take place, the Board also decided to hire an interim superintendent, she said. A number of names were presented to her that fit the board’s criteria for the interim position, including that the person be retired and/or not seeking the superintendent position.

“Ron Koehler’s name came out because he is both familiar with the local districts and just as importantly, he is familiar with the internal Kent ISD structure,” Haidle said, adding that Koehler’s familiarity with Kent ISD would help assure that the intermediate school district would continue to operate smoothly while the superintendent search was conducted. Koehler has been with Kent ISD since 1996. 

Caniff said at the meeting that he felt Koehler was a good choice since the two have worked together in the past and that the transition from him to Koehler should be a smooth one as well as from Koehler to the next superintendent.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio or email Joanne.

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