Kent ISD — Dave Rodgers’ excitement about his new position at Kent ISD is tied to a concern for those who teach.
“We’ve got to elevate the profession of teaching again,” he said. “So my excitement is tied to that. Hopefully, some of the work – work that was started before I got here – will continue to be built upon.”
Rodgers joined Kent ISD in July as the new assistant superintendent of human resources and legal services. He has more than 30 years of public education experience, the last 11 as assistant superintendent of human resources at Northville Public Schools in Wayne County.
Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Koehler called Rodgers an exceptional listener and leader who “will provide new direction to our own organization and the districts we serve.”
‘Something to give’
A graduate of North Muskegon High School, Rodgers said he feels fortunate to have had a positive and supportive educational experience, which he recognizes is not always the case for some. In fact, he wears his high-school class ring as a reminder of what students need and deserve.
Partly because of that positive experience, Rodgers felt a calling to service and public education.
“As a young man, I couldn’t see myself going into business,” he said, adding that his father had been an educator for most of his career. “I felt I had something to give back.”
Rodgers earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, and in 1991 landed a special education teaching position at Whitehall’s Upper Elementary, now named Helen R. Ealy Elementary. He served in that position for 10 years, and then as a fourth-grade teacher for a year. He would then become the school’s principal, serving in that position for six years.
In 2009, he moved to the central office as the director of instruction and assessment data.
“It was a small district, so you wore a lot of hats,” Rodgers said of his experience at Whitehall. “So I had a little bit of everything, curriculum, personal to whatever really needed to be done, which was a wonderful learning opportunity.”
During that time and with the encouragement of his superintendent, Rodgers focused on his own professional development in human resources. He earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Western Michigan University, and a specialist degree in educational administration and supervision from Grand Valley State University.
‘I am a firm believer that our schools are that centerpiece, that heartbeat of every community, and if we don’t take care of the profession our schools won’t be able to take care of communities, in the way that we want or expect them to.’– Dave Rodgers, Kent ISD assistant superintendent of human resources and legal services
At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, Rodgers began to consider where he wanted to go next.
“I was at that point, I thought, with the age of my kids and where I was at with my career, I wanted to grow professionally,” he recalled.
Having lived most of his life in Muskegon County, Rodgers took a leap of faith and moved across the state to Northville Public Schools, located in the Metro Detroit area. He was hired as Northville’s director of human resources, and a couple of years later as the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources.
“It is a wonderful community and fantastic school district,” he said. “I really hadn’t … thought about applying for a job in 11 years.”
A New Door Opens
Because of his West Michigan roots, Rodgers was familiar with the Grand Rapids area, and because of his career in education knew of Kent ISD’s reputation. When he heard that friend and colleague Coni Sullivan was leaving her position as assistant superintendent of human resources and legal services, he and his wife, Charlene, gave it real thought.
“Our parents are both over here in West Michigan, and living in the Detroit Metro area we weren’t seeing them all that often as much as they would like or that we would like,” he said.
There were other factors: they were empty nesters with their youngest, Scott, having headed off to Michigan State University and their other two children, Mia and Morgan, MSU graduates who were already working in their chosen fields.
“I felt that based on Kent ISD, this was a unique opportunity, the opportunity to get back to West Michigan,” Rodgers said. “We decided to explore that and before you knew it things fell into place, and here we are.”
Supported and Supportive
There is a learning curve going from serving a school to an intermediate school district that serves several, but Rodgers said he’s excited to have the opportunity.
“All my prior experience has been serving school districts,” he said. “Learning the ISD, how it operates, in some ways it is the same and in some ways it is different… So many people here, and they have been exceedingly welcoming and very supportive.”
Rodgers also has enjoyed learning about the many programs offered through the Kent ISD such as the Kent Career Tech Center’s Teacher Academy and state funding to help schools recruit and maintain staff.
“How do we get people excited about careers in education again?” he said as he reflected on teacher and school staff shortages. “We have to keep the profession something that is revered, something that is respected, and something that young people aspire to.
“I am a firm believer that our schools are that centerpiece, that heartbeat of every community, and if we don’t take care of the profession our schools won’t be able to take care of communities in the way that we want or expect them to.”