Kent ISD — After several months serving as interim superintendent, the Kent ISD School Board has removed the word interim from Ron Koehler’s title, naming him the new superintendent, with all the responsibilities that entails.
Just before spring break, the board announced that due to the lack of applicants, it had suspended its search for a new superintendent and named Koehler to the position. Koehler has 23 years of experience at Kent ISD, more than half of that as assistant superintendent. He retired at the end of 2019, and was then asked by the board to serve as interim superintendent when Ron Caniff announced his retirement.
Koehler, who started as interim in January 2021, has a contract with the new title through June 30. The board will negotiate a new multi-year contract before then.
While pleased with the Michigan Association of School Board’s work on the superintendent search, the goals were not met, likely because of the fatigue many education leaders felt during this unusual time of COVID, said board President Andrea Haidle.
“Since he began the position as interim superintendent, Ron (Koehler) has done an excellent job in all areas, which includes the Superintendent Association, staff and others areas of the Kent ISD,” Haidle said, adding that he “leads by listening” and has used his skill as a communicator to begin rebuilding the culture, confidence and connectedness among staff.
“We are not in normal times right now,” Haidle said. “We are in COVID. We are in a time when public education is expected to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, when we don’t even know what Humpty Dumpty is going to look like.”
Koehler said he was honored to be asked to lead Kent ISD, but not surprised there were few candidates “given the COVID situation. It has been a challenge to manage a district as superintendents have been faced with not only the transitions of remote learning to hybrid, (and) to in-person, but the political climate as well,” he said. “I believe if it hadn’t been for COVID, the field of candidates would have been greater.”
Due to the pandemic, Haidle said the board felt this was not the right time to bring in someone new, but rather retain someone who is familiar to staff and has the institutional knowledge about Kent ISD.
“Also, as we looked at the qualities of what we were looking for in our next superintendent, Ron checked off almost all the boxes,” Haidle said, adding that for now the board has suspended the superintendent search until things have returned to normal.
Koehler said when he took over as interim, he asked staff what they wanted to focus on with the response being communication and a strategic plan. Having worked on the communication element, Koehler said his focus will now be on developing a new Kent ISD strategic plan, something the ISD has not reviewed in six years.
“I’m excited to move forward on this,” Koehler said. “I think it is important for Kent ISD to reaffirm our commitment to take students from the cradle to career, and to reaffirm to our staff how important their positions are to our students, our schools and our community.”