ST. JOSEPH — After three hours worth of interviews and 30 minutes of discussion Monday night, the St. Joseph school board chose Thomas Bruce to be the district’s next superintendent.
A lengthy public hearing culminated in a unanimous decision to hire Bruce, contingent on successful contract negotiations.
Speaking on behalf of the board of education, Board President Barry Conybeare said they look forward to seeing what Bruce can do with the district’s resources at his disposal.
“We’ve got a guy we’re viewing as a visionary, a leader, and someone who has an opportunity to elevate us and take us to the next step,” Conybeare said. “They’re both super qualified candidates that we can be successful under. But Dr. Bruce will lead us.”
Bruce is currently the director of curriculum and instruction at Arcadia Unified School District in California – a position he has held since 2016.
Prior to that, he was a middle school principal for two years and an elementary school principal for six years. Bruce began his educational career in Michigan as an elementary school teacher for nine years and as an assistant principal/head teacher for four years.
Having grown up in Howell, Mich., Bruce moved to California 12 years ago with his wife and two daughters.
“I’m excited about this,” Bruce said Monday. “Looking at this position, I noticed what this district stands for. I saw a lighthouse district. It’s a ‘we want to be on top, we want to be the best,’ kind of district.”
One of the highlights during Bruce’s final interview came when he was asked about his thoughts regarding screen time for students.
Bruce said he has pushed for more technology in the classroom, but conceded it is hard to find a balance.
With the school district continuing to invest in its One-to-One program at Upton Middle School – along with the additional Chromebooks that will be introduced at the elementary schools this fall – Bruce discussed the benefits and disadvantages on the amount of devices students use in school.
“When the CEO of Netflix was asked who their biggest competition was, he said ‘sleep,’” Bruce said. “There are a lot of things programmed in where kids don’t stand a chance. Now the other side of that are the learning apps. There are educational pieces out there that I believe actually accelerate learning. However, there has to be some kind of limit.”
In an effort to drive home his point about reaching out for community input, Bruce passed out several sheets of paper with a QR code on it.
At the end of his presentation on what he would do in his first 90 days as superintendent, Bruce accessed some of the responses that audience members sent through a mobile app that was collected through the QR code.
After both candidates left Monday, board members collected feedback from a packed conference room.
As the first board member to speak up, Vice President Kerry M. Wright II said he expects Bruce to meet the call of being the district’s next leader.
“He’s obviously researched our district and understands the legacy of success that this community has experienced,” Wright said.
The board had also asked Thomas Livezey, superintendent at Oakridge Public Schools, back for a second interview. Livezey has served the Oakridge Public Schools as superintendent since 2009.
The St. Joseph school district began its search after Ann Cardon, superintendent for the past seven years, agreed to become superintendent of the Traverse City Area Public School District. She is expected to begin working at TCAPS on Aug. 1.
In June, the board approved a contract for $6,000 with the Michigan Leadership Institute to provide consulting services for the search.
Following its unanimous vote to hire Bruce, the board broke off into private session to discuss the legalities of the contract.
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