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LO grad picked to lead Lapeer schools



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March 23, 2011 - It's not a done deal yet, but it appears a 1994 Lake Orion High School graduate is on his way to becoming the next superintendent of Lapeer Community Schools

Matthew Wandrie, 34, of Addison Township, was the Lapeer Board of Education's pick to lead the district following a unanimous vote last week.

"The superintendent candidate selecting the district is as big a part as the district selecting you," said Wandrie, who taught history at Oxford High School from 2001-04. "I chose Lapeer because of the small town feel and the student-centered focus."

Lapeer Schools has a student population of approximately 6,100, a budget of about $52 million, 12 schools and 735 employees, 363 of whom are teachers.

Wandrie's hiring as Lapeer's new superintendent is contingent on the outcome of a visit to Dearborn Public Schools, where he currently works as director of human resources, and contract negotiations with Lapeer's personnel committee.

"I think the goal is to have the whole thing wrapped up, hopefully, before month's end," said Wandrie, who was among more than 40 applicants for the position.

Lapeer's current superintendent, Debbie Thompson, is retiring at the end of the year after six years on the job.

Working in Lapeer will be a homecoming of sorts for Wandrie considering he's spent most of his life in this area.

Besides teaching at OHS for three years and being an assistant coach for both the Wildcat varsity football and baseball teams, Wandrie grew up in Orion.

Prior to moving to Addison over Labor Day weekend last year, Wandrie and his family lived in Oxford for five years. He's head coach of the Oxford Jr. Wildcats JV gold team and his parents currently live in Lapeer.

"My entire life has been on the M-24 corridor, so I couldn't go too far away," Wandrie said.

Despite the high number of superintendent vacancies both locally and around the state, Wandrie said Lapeer's opening was the only one he applied for.

"The main reason I chose to apply was because of the research I had done," he explained. "I couldn't be more impressed."

Wandrie was "encouraged" by the district's test scores.

"There's a real focus on student achievement in the district," he said.

He also liked the fact that the board of education was "student-centered."

"That was something that had to be a match for me," he said.

Wandrie understands that a superintendent has many functions including overseeing the district's financial stability, engaging in long-term planning and developing relationships with local businesses and political entities.

"Those are all important, but I think what should be paramount in our thinking is what's best for kids," he said. "Unfortunately, it's too cliche today in education. You hear that phrase all the time, but I really felt that Lapeer lived that mission and it became more apparent as I went through the interview process."

From the board to the district's employees to the parents and community, "there was a very student-centered focus in the district."

Wandrie also appreciated the "attractiveness of a small town school district," something he was familiar with having gone through Lake Orion Schools.

"It's really where I'm most comfortable," he said.

In the end, he saw the Lapeer position as a "natural fit for my personality" and is extremely grateful to be given the chance to lead an entire district "with half of my career in front of me still."

Wandrie's worked in public education for 12 years.

Prior to taking over as Dearborn's human resources director just last summer, he worked in the Waterford district for six years. First, he was the assistant principal and athletic director for Waterford Kettering High School, then he was promoted to principal of Waterford Mott High School.

Prior to Waterford, he taught in Oxford.

It's hard to believe given his meteoric rise professionally, that education wasn't Wandrie's first choice as a career,.

When he attended Alma College as an undergraduate, Wandrie's original course of study was pre-med.

However, an injury he sustained while playing football for the Division 3 college gave him the opportunity to coach some high school students. That got him interested in working with young people.

That experience coupled with the fact that he had been "discouraged" by some of the instruction he received as a high school student led him to the education field.

"Education needs dedicated people and I felt that I was a passionate person (with regard to) teaching and learning," he said. "I just very much enjoy working with kids of all ages and I don't think that will ever change."

Wandrie lives in Addison with his wife of 11 years, Christie, and their three children Thomas, 10; Jack, 8: and Anna, 6.

Even though they technically reside in the Lake Orion school district, all three children will be attending Clear Lake Elementary in Oxford this fall as Schools of Choice students.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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