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Kent ISD superintendent search suspended, interim to stay on for now

Kent ISD — Disappointed that its objectives were not met and concerned that staff has felt “huge stress” during the pandemic, the Kent ISD School Board has decided to suspend its search for a new superintendent. Ron Koehler will remain as interim superintendent until conditions return to “some sense of normalcy,” a board statement said.  

While pleased with the Michigan Association of School Board’s work on the superintendent search, according to the Kent ISD board its goals were not met, likely because of the fatigue many education leaders felt during this unusual time of COVID.

“This pandemic has stressed us all, but few have been impacted as much as educators and educational leadership,” board President Andrea Haidle said in a press release. “We received just 13 applications for what is widely viewed as one of the premier education leadership positions in the state. One of our primary goals was a diverse pool of candidates, yet those we received were not diverse.” 

Board members said they felt the burden on staff during this time also was a concern, as the Kent ISD’s staff of more than 1,000 felt disconnected during the pandemic, due in part to work-at-home orders. The board feared new leadership could disrupt the process of rebuilding the culture, confidence and connectedness among staff as conditions return to normal.

“Our staff deserve a well-known and welcome leader during this time as we work toward a sense of normalcy,” said Haidle. Koehler worked at Kent ISD for 23 years, more than half of that time as an assistant superintendent, before retiring in 2019. 

The board did not make a decision on when the search would be renewed. Koehler took over as interim superintendent in January after being appointed last August. As a condition of his appointment, Koehler agreed to remain as interim until the board selected a new leader. 

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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

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