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Superintendent announces retirement, interim named

Dan Takens, a former superintendent at Byron Center Public Schools, will temporarily take the superintendent reins at Thornapple Kellogg Schools as the district looks for a replacement for Rob Blitchok who announced he will retire Sept. 30 after two years in the role and seven years in the district.

Takens had retired from Byron Center effective Dec. 31, 2019, after 11 years at the helm of Byron Center and 31 years in public education, including in Kentwood Public Schools.

He began in Byron Center in 2004 as the first principal of Countryside Elementary and led the district as superintendent beginning in September 2008. He will start at Thornapple Kellogg Oct. 1.

The Thornapple Kellogg Board of Education is working with Michigan Leadership Institute on the search for a permanent replacement for Blitchok, who resigned for personal reasons, including the desire to spend more time with his family.

In an interview with School News Network, Board President Dave Smith said there was surprise and sadness on the part of the board when Blitchok announced his resignation.

“We expected he would stay a few more years,” Smith said. “Rob did an exemplary job as our superintendent.”

He said that Takens came recommended by Kent ISD, and when the board met with him to hear about his experience and how he would approach the role, “the board was convinced he would be a great interim for us.”

Thornapple Kellogg superintendent Rob Blitchok announced his resignation after two years in the role and seven in the district

Genuine and Special Community Support

The current tentative timeline includes closing the application process on Oct. 23 and presenting applicants to the board on Nov. 2. First-round interviews would be held Nov. 10-12 and final interviews the following week with hopes of offering a contract by the end of November. Public input and focus groups also are part of the timeline.

“The objective of the aggressive timeline is more about attracting quality candidates than it is about filling the role quickly,” said Smith. “We want the best possible superintendent, and in the current climate for school administration, indicators suggest that this approach is appropriate. However, we are also willing and able to slow things down if needed at any point.”
At his last board meeting, Blitchok, who joined Thornapple Kellogg in 2014 as an assistant superintendent for business and finance, human resources, transportation, facilities and food service, received thanks from board members and in turn had expressed his appreciation for the district.

And in a letter to the Thornapple Kellogg community he wrote: “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this district the last seven years. I will be leaving TK Schools with countless positive experiences and memories. I am grateful for the support of the board of education, the TK Staff, and the community at large … The community support for this district is genuine and special. I have no doubt your full support of the schools, students and the dedicated staff who work here will continue and this district will remain TK Strong.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio


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