Kelloggsville – After a 50-year career in education, including 27 years in the Kelloggsville School District, Superintendent Sam Wright will be retiring effective June 30.
He laughs when he says this time he means it.
In 2010, Wright retired from Kelloggsville for the first time, after a decade as the district superintendent. It lasted three years, until 2013, when the district called him back to assist in a time of transition.
Wright said then that he planned to serve for just two years to get Kelloggsville through the rough patch in which it found itself.
Gradually two years turned to nine, but now, Wright said, the time has truly come for him to ride off into the sunset.
Or maybe boat off into the sunset. Wright and his wife have a cottage near South Haven and there the congenial 73-year-old can be found most summer nights, piloting his pontoon boat around the lake, listening to the Tigers on the radio and maybe doing a little fishing.
This summer he’ll do so, he said in an interview with SNN, knowing that the district is in exceedingly good shape and exceedingly good hands.
James Alston, currently the high school principal, has been tapped to be the next Kelloggsville superintendent, and Eric Alcorn, director of human resources, has been promoted to assistant superintendent.
Both men already are working with Wright on an orderly transition plan, getting up-to-speed on the demands of their new jobs and learning the ropes to ensure that the district continues on what Wright said is a terrific path.
Focus on Students First and Foremost
“We want to make sure everything is stable,” he said. “In the last decade we’ve been able to move on from the last recession, we were able to pass some bonds and build some buildings and some programs. We have a really good team of energetic people in place; our Board of Education is excellent, and I am proud of the ways in which the community, the board and the administration have come together on behalf of the district.”
Beth Postma, Wright’s executive assistant for 22 years, said Wright had more than a little to do with that coming-together.
“We will miss his vision and leadership,” she said. “He has cultivated a sense of pride in our district – Rocket Pride – and is dedicated to the Kelloggsville community. He has great wisdom, a wealth of knowledge and a great sense of humor, and his focus was always about what is best for our students, first and foremost.”
“Mr. Wright is a no-nonsense type of guy,” he said. “However, he has a sense of humor and enjoys talking about all things Kelloggsville. I enjoyed the talks I have had with him over the years. He has definitely helped shape the type of leader I am and will be moving forward.”
For Wright, being a cheerleader for Kelloggsville, a district that dates back to 1856, came pretty naturally. Raised in a small town, he said Kelloggsville too often gets overlooked because of its proximity to the Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming districts.
“Move this district 15 miles south, and we’d be a shining star,” he said. “As it is, we get lost in the shuffle a little. But we believe we are the best-kept secret in Kent County.”
One-Third of the Student Body is Schools of Choice
Word is getting out though.
Wright said the district’s small size does provide benefits for students who might feel lost in a bigger district but come to Kelloggsville and thrive both because of the classroom offerings and also because of the many co-curricular opportunities such as bands, choirs, clubs and sports teams.
He’s excited about the new buildings the district has put into place in the last decade but equally excited about the things the buildings make possible.
Last November, Kelloggsville voters approved a 22-year, $11.3 million bond that paved the way for the construction and addition of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) building at Kelloggsville High School; a new media center at Southeast Elementary; and technology upgrades to enhance instruction.
‘We have a really good team of energetic people in place, our Board of Education is excellent, and I am proud of the ways in which the community, the board and the administration have come together on behalf of the district.’– Kelloggsville Superintendent Sam Wright
Wright said the STEM building will give district students invaluable hands-on experience in a variety of areas, including robotics, that will allow students who don’t want to pursue college after high school the opportunity to jump straight into good jobs in the trades.
That emphasis, he added, integrates back into the curriculum a focus on hands-on education that the legislature ill-advisedly took away from Michigan schools and that schools are now playing catch-up on as they work to alleviate shortages in the trades.
In the last decade, Kelloggsville has had a number of bond proposals successfully pass, including a $33.9 million ballot measure for the high school addition in 2015 and a $19.2 million measure for Central Elementary School in 2018.
From Kingsley to Kelloggsville
That trajectory convinced Wright that the time was right for retirement number two. Add in a wife of 53 years, Cathy, who retired from nursing a decade ago, expecting her spouse to be close behind, and the time, he says with a soft smile, became even more right.
The two were high school sweethearts, friends since age 4 in the small town of Kingsley, Michigan, about 15 miles south of Traverse City. There, Wright, the son of a factory worker, was a high school baseball and basketball star, a catcher on the diamond and a sharp-shooting guard on the hardwood who topped 1,300 points during a three-year career on the varsity well before the advent of the three-point line.
He then went on to Central Michigan University, earning a bachelor’s degree in education with a business major in 1972 and becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree (he later earned advanced degrees from Western Michigan University and Nazareth College as well as numerous certifications).
His first classroom position was in Colon Public Schools, near the Indiana border and home to the Colon Magic Museum. He also was an assistant basketball and assistant football coach. After two years he was off to Pellston Public Schools, just south of Mackinaw City, where he was head varsity coach and assistant football coach.
He then spent five years teaching and coaching at Coloma Public Schools near Benton Harbor before making the transition into administration as the assistant principal at Berrien Spring High School south of Benton Harbor. That transition eventually led him to Kelloggsville where this year he celebrated his 50th year in K-12 education and also planned his second retirement.
“I thought I’d better get out of town now, while I still had the chance,” he says, leaning back in his chair, a self-deprecating smile on his face. “I’ve got bad knees and a bad hip. It’s time.”