March 12, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- Dr. Matthew Outlaw will be the next superintendent of the Brandon School District, pending contract agreement.
The school board unanimously approved his selection during a special meeting March 11. Board President Greg Allar made a conference call immediately after the vote to the superintendent designee, asking him to accept the board's invitation to be the next superintendent of the Brandon School District.
"Oh my gosh! Thank you so much. I would be honored," was Outlaw's response, which was met by applause from audience members at the board meeting, including teachers and principals. "We feel Brandon is such a good fit for us... I'm absolutely thrilled."
The selection of Outlaw as superintendent brings to a close a search process that began shortly after current Superintendent Lorrie McMahon announced her decision in October to step down at the end of this school year, after six years at the helm.
Dr. Mike Wilmot of the Michigan Leadership Institute led the search, during which 40 candidates applied, more than twice the average number. The board interviewed four of the candidates last month, then narrowed the field to two final candidates— Outlaw, current principal of South High School in the Grosse Pointe Public Schools and Blake Prewitt, curriculum director for Armada Area Schools.
A committee of seven, including administrators, teachers, and two school board members, conducted daylong site visits, on March 4 and March 6, to the candidates' districts, speaking with teachers, administrators, parents and students.
The candidates had also each spent time here in interviews and while the board members said both candidates were excellent, Outlaw held the edge.
"Dr. Outlaw by the narrowest of margins is my favorite," said Board Secretary Chris Yuchasz prior to the vote. "I am so excited today. I have a sophomore and senior and they will be done soon. I am jealous they will miss out on this candidate."
Allar said Outlaw was the board's choice due to his ability to rally the troops— the district's staffmembers— empowering and protecting them, and allowing them to do their jobs.
"He's going to be a leader in our community, no doubt about it," said Allar. "We heard comments from people in his district that they would follow him anywhere."
Outlaw has worked in the Grosse Pointe Public Schools for more than a decade— as principal of South High School since July 2011, and prior to that, had positions as the assistant principal of North High School and the assist principal and athletic director at South High School. He began his career in the Novi Community Schools, as a civics teacher at Novi High School from 1996 to 2001, before being named the dean of students there, a position in which he served for two years before moving on to Grosse Pointe. Outlaw earned his doctorate degree in educational leadership from Wayne State University in 2009.
During an interview by phone on Wednesday, Outlaw said he was ecstatic to be selected as Brandon's next superintendent (pending contract agreement) and sought the position as a new challenge and opportunity to lead.
Outlaw, who has been married to Nicole for 10 years and is the father of Tyler, 7, and Hannah, 4, grew up in Brighton, when he said it was a smaller town, and the smaller size of Brandon appeals to him.
"I am a small town guy, and this feels like a great community," he said. "I think there will be many priorities, but I want to listen and learn, assess where we are at as a school system. We have to address the enrollment issue and one of the things I have talked about is a long-range vision of ten years... I will seek input from the community, students, and staff and that will help guide us in everything we do."
Besides stabilizing the finances of the district, Outlaw said other major priorities include improving communication and working on the school-community connection. He plans to engage constituents in a dialogue and encourage students who live within the district to return.
"Enrollment is about the people in your own community, not those in districts around your community," Outlaw said. "One of the greatest strengths of the system are the people... Uncompromising commitment to excellence is the key to success— everything else falls under that umbrella. If you have the attitude the schools will be great and we will do what it takes to get there, we will be successful."
Kristy Spann, principal of Oakwood Elementary, said she is looking forward to working with the superintendent-designee.
"I know the board was faced with a tough decision, and I am pleased he will join our team," she said. "He is energetic, approachable, and really student-centered and focused. He really came across as a team player."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville