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One Year Down, Many More to Go: Reflecting on My First Year as Superintendent

By Joshua T. Rothwell


If I had to describe this year in one word, it would be busy. The 2023-2024 school year was full of highlights: our football team won the Division 6 State Championship, third-grade teacher Molly Dunham was named Regional Teacher of the Year, high school test scores improved, we brought on a full-time school resource officer, hundreds of students experienced Challenge Day, and our music and arts programs continued to excel. This year also marked my first year in office as Superintendent.


Me and Athletic Director Mitch Miggenburg

This opportunity felt like a homecoming for me. I grew up here. I graduated from Kingsley High School. I used to teach at the elementary school. This is the community where I live and raise my two daughters.


Coming into the position, I knew my first job would be to listen. Strengthening Kingsley’s tradition of excellence would require buy-in and input from everyone in our community.


After hundreds of meetings big and small—from curriculum committees to board meetings to one-on-one conversations at my monthly “Coffee Chat” office hours—I am confident we’re beginning to understand the needs of the stakeholders who make our schools great.


This school year, we’ve completed several major efforts that will position our district for growth and opportunity in the years to come:


Strategic Plan

This fall, with support from the Michigan Association of School Boards, we began a formal Strategic Planning initiative. We hosted several community meetings and used an online survey to gather feedback to help us shape plans for the next three to five years. We synthesized input from several hundred people and identified five key focus areas: Academics & Programs, Learning Environment & Culture, Communications & Community Engagement, Operations & Finance, and Personnel. Now, we’re going to put these thoughts and ideas into action for improvement.


Facilities Study

This spring, we contracted SiteLogIQ to conduct a comprehensive facilities study. They did a deep dive into all of our buildings, including athletic facilities and the transportation department. Their report revealed that we urgently need roof replacements on all three school buildings and we need to update the HVAC systems in the elementary and middle schools.


The most pressing need, which we already knew about, is the need for space. Currently, we are utilizing every square inch of space, but we have grown as a district and need more room.


This is extremely apparent when you tour the elementary school and see support staff working in repurposed boiler rooms and storage closets. Our goal is not to tear anything down or remove anything, but to figure out how we can maximize our current space and then add space so that we're not so cramped.


All of this costs money. Business manager Nadia Hoover and I are estimating how much each project could cost. I am working with a financial analyst specializing in public school finance to think about possible ballot initiatives that could help finance these needs. As a board, we will put together a list of Top 10 district needs and roll this out to the community.


The biggest takeaway from this facilities study is that we are doing our homework to analyze and assess where we are with our current buildings.


Curriculum Overhaul

Curriculum purchases over the last number of years have been very inconsistent. I think they were simply picking and choosing instead of actually having a true curriculum cycle. Right now, we're focused on aligning our language arts curriculum. Recently, the elementary school finished an ELA curriculum study. The board approved their suggested curriculum, which will be implemented next school year. The high school and middle school are currently finishing up their own research. We are also searching for a full-time Curriculum Director to help us continue to stay on track.


Building Relationships

Our teachers are the heartbeat of this district. In our strategic plan, we set goals to attract and retain staff members. We want to provide a really comfortable work environment for everybody. Behind the scenes, there have been some challenges as far as changing or solidifying some protocols. For me, the work has been easier because of my pre-existing relationships in the community. I am so appreciative of the staff, and I feel there is a calmer demeanor in the district as everyone focuses on what’s best for the kids.


Looking Ahead

As I reflect on this first year, I am deeply grateful for the support and dedication of our staff, students, and community members. We have laid a strong foundation and we are ready to start making meaningful change. I am proud to work in a community with a strong family culture, and I will do whatever it takes to empower this wonderful district.


Warmly,

Joshua T. Rothwell




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