DOWAGIAC - The Dowagiac Union School District has a new superintendent, and he's very familiar with the school system.
The school board has hired Bridgman High School Principal Paul Hartsig as superintendent.
Hartsig lives in Dowagiac and worked in the Dowagiac district from 1995 to 2012. He became principal at Dowagiac Union High School in 2004 before leaving in 2012 to take the Bridgman job. He was one of four finalists interviewed by board members on Saturday.
School board President Michelle Helmuth-Charles said Wednesday board members decided to forgo a second round of interviews and offer the job to Hartsig at the conclusion of Saturday interviews.
"We had already checked references and no one wanted to have second interviews," she said. "We were able to reach a unanimous decision to hire him."
She said Hartsig's commitment to and knowledge of the Dowagiac community was a major reason behind the board decision.
"He does know the district," she said. "He and his family still live here, and he's committed to the community. It also helps that he knows the facilities as we look at making facility improvements."
She said she expects Hartsig to be a strong leader for the school district and fit in well with the strong administrative team.
Helmuth-Charles said the board initially considered hiring an interim superintendent after they learned Superintendent Mark Daniel had taken a job in Illinois.
"We talked about having an interim superintendent for a year if we didn't have quality candidates, but we did," she said. "We had a pool of nearly 20 candidates and interviewed four finalists. We had some good candidates."
Other finalists interviewed were Nkenge Bergan, Angela Piazza and Jeff Rehlander.
She said the board is in contract negotiations with Hartsig over issues such as his salary and start date. She said the board's next regular meeting is June 16, but she expects it may have a special meeting before then to approve his contract.
"Our goal is to get him in here in June," she said.
One of the first matters Hartsig will tackle is finding a new principal for Justin Gage Elementary School. March Hendress resigned in April, and Kay Tularak is now serving as the interim principal. Helmuth-Charles said she hopes to get him involved in the process of hiring a new principal.
Daniel, the outgoing superintendent, announced in March he was leaving the district after four years to take a new job as the superintendent for the McLean County Unit 5 School District near Normal, Ill. His annual salary there will be $190,000, up from the $120,000 he was getting in Dowagiac.