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Final two

Decision this week on new superintendent

September 01, 2010 - Rock or Richards.

One of these two, Dr. Rod Rock, director of instructional services at Saginaw Intermediate School District, or Dr. Gary Richards, superintendent of Imlay City Community Schools, is set to be selected Clarkston's next school superintendent.

"I think it's positive for us and the community," said Trustee Elizabeth Egan, at the Aug. 25 Clarkston Board of Education meeting.

Richards (click for larger version)
The vote for Richards and Rock was unanimous.

Richards was interviewed, Aug. 24, along with applicants Dr. Thomas Gay, corporate administrator, Quality Schools Initiative, and Geraldine Moore, assistant superintendent, Rochester School District of Instruction.

Rock was interviewed, Aug. 23, along with Dr. Richard Drury, former superintendent in Wheaton, Ill., and Cindy Weber, Durand Area Schools' superintendent.

Second interviews are set this week, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, and the final decision is set for Thursday, Sept. 2.

Rock (click for larger version)
Richards said he is commited to students, as a mentor and also a stern role model.

"It appears he works on a daily basis with students and helps them from falling through the cracks," said Trustee Cheryl McGinnis.

During his interview, Richards spoke about a National Honor Society student he inspired.

"She wrote me a letter that hangs in my office," he said. "The student was killed a month later. It serves as a reminder of how important our young people are more important than anything."

When asked if he had any regrets, Richards said he had none.

"I am very analytical about decisions I make," he added. "With big decisions I take my time. If I do make a mistake I will admit to it and let you know."

His personality was one of the traits standing out for the board, especially his enthusiasm.

"Richards is very personable," said Vice President Susan Boatman. "He is very robust."

"He was genuine and sincere," added Trustee Elizabeth Egan.

Richards closed his interview by telling the board he will continue helping students no matter if he's hired or not.

"He could be put into any district and solve any problem," said Secretary Joan Patterson. "He has the tools to figure out how to solve problems and works with the team."

His technology experience also came through during the interview as he discussed what he has done in his small district. When the board asked what he would do with unlimited funds, he didn't hestitate to let them know every student would have an iPad.

"He was one of the only ones to say it and most candidates answered with what we are doing today," said Treasurer Rosalie Lieblang. "He took the question for what it was worth."

The board learned Rock was offered the superintendent position for Caro Community Schools on Aug. 24. He removed his application for the position at Caro, Aug. 26, for the opportunity to work for Clarkston.

"I was very intrigued by his profile and his extensive work," said McGinnis. "I felt he is a heavy thinker and all about the students."

When considering Rock as a finalist, his work on the Project reImagine grant for Saginaw ISD and his connection with the Michigan Department of Education stood out.

He also discussed some of his goals for his first 100 days, sparking interest in Lieblang and Steve Hyer, board president.

"It shows a lot of planning and a lot of thinking," said Lieblang.

Experience was an issue, but his plan to make Clarkston number one and put money back into the classroom intrigued the board.

"Everyone would know where we are going," said Hyer. "It would be written down and we would be doing great things. I am comfortable with that."

They also briefly discussed the other four candidates before voting.

The board was on the fence with Moore and Gay. Moore has previous work experience in Clarkston as executive director of pre-K and elementary education.

"She knows Clarkston very well and knows our culture," said Egan. "She can slide in and do the job. My concern is do we have an opportunity to make some positive changes."

When the final vote was taken, Egan, McGinnis and Boatman voted "yes."

Positives for Gay included experience with technology and budget, concern for the board, and personality fit.

However, Hyer and Egan were uneasy about the way he directed all his responses to the board, not the audience, as other candidates did.

"He is a nice guy but sounds like what we have had," said Egan. "The community has been communicating we need something different and we need to listen to that."

The second round of interviews was to begin on Tuesday with Rock. Meetings were scheduled throughout the day with staff, administrators, parents and the community before his interview with the board.

Richards goes through the same process on Wednesday. He meets with parents and community members at 3:15 p.m. and his interview begins at 5 p.m.

The sessions are in the board room at the Administration Building, 6389 Clarkston Road.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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