New superintendent ready for challenges

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — The office where William Grusecki recently interviewed as a prospective superintendent for Southgate Community Schools sits empty after crews spent this weekend relocating the district administration to the city’s municipal complex. Adjusting to new work space will be one of the many challenges for Grusecki, who last week was named to the position.

Grusecki will take over effective July 1 from Interim Superintendent Nancy Nagle, who was asked last year to fill in for retiring superintendent David Peden. Nagle’s early days on duty included the announcement that general education bus service would not be available for 2011-12 due to budget cuts, which set the tone for a challenging year that included privatized custodial service.

“There was a lot of controversy and disappointment at the beginning,” Nagle said. “There were some pretty rough times, but people settled in because they know we had no choice.”

For Grusecki, Southgate seemed a different world than he’d experienced with the Arenac Eastern School District. A native of the northern Lower Peninsula, Grusecki serves as superintendent and principal of the district and school he attended north of Bay City. At Arenac, Grusecki wears — as all staffers do — multiple hats in the small community, and he wondered if a different atmosphere would greet him at one of southeast Michigan’s largest districts.

“When I went down [for the interview] I felt extremely comfortable,” Grusecki said. “Almost like these are the same type of people, just a lot more of them.”

Those people, staff and administrators, face the same challenges whether Downriver or elsewhere in Michigan, and Grusecki said the biggest challenges are similar. State mandates, reduced enrollment and budget deficits to balance remain the key while focusing on education.

“After the legislators get off their [Spring] break we hope to have some definitive answers,” Grusecki said. “All districts, no matter where, will struggle and make cuts.”

Even prior to a July start date, Grusecki will be involved in administration decisions including hiring a special education director and new high school principal. Nagle said that Grusecki was asked to join the search process to better acquaint him with the candidates.

In some respects, Nagle said that Grusecki’s transition should be simple, as union contracts are set through 2013.

“He’s going to be in a lot better shape than he would in some places,” Nagle said. “We’ve got a good team in place, and he can get a feel for it and make his own plan for improvements.”

As for the new office space, Grusecki said that bringing together the school district under the same roof as city administration offers more advantages than flaws.

“It’s a good thing where they’re going,” Grusecki said. “Having all the entities together like that all in one place; we need to work together.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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