Thornapple Kellogg – Since being named interim superintendent in early September, Craig McCarthy essentially has been doing two jobs – that of assistant superintendent, which he has held for 3 ½ years, and the interim position filling in for Dan Remenap after he took a medical leave of absence Sept. 3.
McCarthy is still heading the district, but without the “interim” designation. After accepting Remenap’s resignation in mid-December, the Board of Education unanimously hired McCarthy as superintendent at a special meeting Jan. 17.
The situation worked out well for both parties. It gave McCarthy more than three months’ experience leading the district, and gave the school board ample time to see how well he handled the responsibility.
“I feel honored by the opportunity,” said McCarthy, a veteran administrator and teacher for area districts. “I’m just happy they’re happy with my work and confident that I can do a good job.”
Board President Matt Powers said they do indeed have confidence in McCarthy as a “calculated and polished leader.”
“Since September, he has taken the leadership role at Thornapple Kellogg Schools and added a sense of calm and control immediately,” Powers said in a news release. “He is a great listener and makes level-headed decisions. I truly appreciate how he assesses all of the information, communicates with stakeholders and takes swift action moving forward. I am looking forward to the progress Thornapple Kellogg Schools will make under the leadership of Craig McCarthy.”
His assistant superintendent post was filled by the school board at its Feb. 14 meeting, when it hired Chris LaHaie, chief financial officer for Cedar Springs Public Schools. He will begin his work on Feb. 28.
Background in Schools and Business
McCarthy brings nearly 30 years of experience in education to his post. He was hired in 2018 to serve as assistant superintendent under Rob Blitchok, who was named that same year as superintendent. McCarthy continued his post under Remenap, who was hired in December 2020 following Blitchok’s retirement that October.
He has extensive experience both in education and the business world. He served as business director for Cadillac Area Schools, assistant superintendent in Northview and taught business for 14 years at the Kent Career Tech Center. McCarthy has also worked as an accountant with a Southfield firm and with Spartan Stores in Grand Rapids.
Since being named interim superintendent in September, he’s taken on the daunting task of overseeing a district of 3,000-plus students in the midst of a seemingly endless pandemic.
Meet Craig McCarthy
Craig McCarthy has served as interim superintendent since September. He was hired in 2018 as assistant superintendent after serving as director of business operations at Cadillac Area Schools. Prior to that he served nine years as assistant superintendent for Northview Public Schools, and for 14 years taught business service technologies at Kent Career Tech Center.
McCarthy has also worked in the private sector, as an accountant with a Southfield firm and later with Spartan Stores in Grand Rapids.
A graduate of the former Creston High School in Grand Rapids Public Schools, he earned an associate degree from Grand Rapids Community College, a bachelor’s in accounting from Michigan State University and a master’s from Western Michigan University. He acquired certificates in secondary education and vocational teaching from Aquinas College.
Although classes have mostly been in person this school year, the middle school had to go virtual for three days due to COVID-19 cases and the district closed Thanksgiving week because of a staff shortage, he said.
While the omicron wave of the virus is starting to settle down, the constant challenges of the pandemic since it hit in the spring of 2020 have put a strain on interpersonal interactions, he says. Restoring those is one of his top priorities for the remainder of the school year.
“This whole pandemic has really put a hold on a lot of things,” McCarthy said. “One of things I need to do is re-establish the good relationships we have with the community, and re-establish the trust that people want to see.”
With periodic school shutdowns and quarantines, he added, “There’s been sort of a period of isolation for everybody … that made it difficult to have the same kind of relationships you would normally have.” He’s encouraged that people are starting to meet in person instead of by phone calls or Zoom.
‘Good People to Work With’
Despite the pandemic’s challenges, McCarthy said he’s happy to have found a great fit at Thornapple Kellogg.
“It’s the people,” he said. “They really care about providing the best education possible for the kids, and really care for the community and the kids themselves. Not that that’s rare, but this is just a good bunch of people to work with.
“When you enjoy coming to work every day, that’s just a blessing.”