Kalamazoo Public Schools search for a new Superintendent


Credit: Audreanna Dunton

Interim Superintendent Gary Start works at his desk. He will be taking over until Kalamazoo Public Schools finds a permanent replacement for Dr. Micheal Rice.

Audreanna Dunton, Assistant Business Manager

Following Dr. Micheal Rice’s permanent move to become the state superintendent of Michigan, the Kalamazoo Public Schools District has been moving along in the process of finding a new superintendent. 

Dr. Rice served as the KPS superintendent from 2007-2019; nearly twelve years of service within the Kalamazoo educational community. However, “On May 7, 2019, the Michigan State Board of Education voted to appoint Dr. Michael F. Rice Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dr. Rice officially began his work as state superintendent on August 1,” stated Michigan Department of Education

Since Dr. Rice has taken on his new position, the KPS school district hired an interim superintendent, Gary Start. “He was appointed interim by the KPS Board of Education after Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice was named Michigan State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He will serve as interim while the board conducts the search for a new superintendent,” stated Linda Mah, from KPS communications. 

Start has been a part of the KPS and the Kalamazoo community for over twenty years now. While explaining his previous position in the KPS district, Start also shared about  how he believes that his position prior to becoming interim has helped him for the position that he is currently holding. 

“Prior to being interim superintendent, I was deputy superintendent for over 20 years. As such, I was second in command and responsible for the business and support departments in the district. That included: finance, transportation, facilities management, food service, communications and technology services. Although that is a wide area of responsibility, I am now responsible for the entire district,” said Start.

Start expressed that his time serving as interim superintendent for KPS has been a positive one. However, as with anything, it takes time to fully adapt to change, especially when that change includes new responsibility, changing of roles, and the expansion of people whom you are serving. Start explained that he has come across new challenges and obstacles while serving as interim superintendent.

“In many cases my new experiences are challenging, they are also interesting, rewarding, and even exciting,” Start continued. “Probably my biggest challenge is in dealing with issues with which I do not have prior experience addressing. However, the good news is that we have very competent experts throughout the district. I don’t need to know all of the answers, I just need to know how to contact a person who does. I think my previous 36 years total with the district has prepared me pretty well for that.”

Start has been serving as interim superintendent for coming up on nine months now. Throughout his time serving as the interim superintendent, he has had many different experiences that he explains have been very positive.

“We are an outstanding school district. I take great pride in representing Kalamazoo Public Schools as its interim superintendent.” Start continued, “My experience as interim superintendent has been very positive. I believe we are one of the best school districts in the state. We have an excellent school board, an excellent staff, outstanding students, and we live in a community that is very supportive of education. We also embrace diversity and our students enjoy the amazing benefits of the Kalamazoo Promise. What is there not to like?” 

Overall, Start has very much enjoyed his experience as the interim superintendent. While the board searches for a candidate to fill in for a permanent position as superintendent for KPS, Start has some advice for whoever fills in his current role.

  1. Listen. There is a lot of knowledge in this district among staff, parents, community members, and students. The new superintendent should take advantage of the knowledge that already exists. 
  2. Embrace diversity. Diversity is one of the main bragging points at KPS. The new superintendent needs to embrace it. I’m sure he or she will. 
  3. Recognize the importance of the Kalamazoo Promise to our students, their parents, and the community. 
  4. Most importantly, like kids. 

Start has achieved a wide variety of accomplishments throughout his professional career. He has worked with KPS since 1983, helped to restructure and make more equitable the county’s special education funding formula, developed a promotional campaign for the district which helped increase enrollment for the 2019-2019 school year, and so much more. He has also volunteered at Phoenix High School, and in 2019 he received the MSBO Distinguished Service Award.