District veteran named superintendent

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON — The differences will be subtle, but the first day of school Tuesday brings a number of changes to Trenton Public Schools, from new students to a new superintendent.

Former Trenton High School Assistant Principal Rodney Wakeham was selected this summer to succeed Larry Leapley as district superintendent; Wakeham was among three educators who participated in an 18-month internship program under Leapley’s direction.

Wakeham, a 17-year veteran of the district, said that the challenge of following Leapley is an easier transition than it might be for a newcomer to the district.

“I’m pleased to have this opportunity,” Wakeham said. “We have a strong group of administrators and teaching staff and a community that supports education. I know the partnership between the district and community and want to continue to strengthen that.”

Wakeham is also familiar with the issues facing the district, from the outsourcing of bus service to the decision earlier this year to become a limited school-of-choice.

In April the board of education approved enrollment for a maximum of 60 students; Wakeham said less than half of the slots were taken, and 11 kindergardeners, three first-graders and 10 ninth-grade students were accepted.

“We wanted to make sure that our first offering would be positive for everyone involved,” Wakeham said. “Those coming in and our current student population.”

Wakeham, whose educational career began in 1985 as a teacher in Painesdale, joined Trenton in 1995 as a science teacher before being selected department chair in 1997.

One challenge facing the district is a recent “C” ranking on a Michigan Department of Education report for Trenton High School. Strategies to improve the school grade were discussed at last month’s board of education meeting, and Wakeham said restorative efforts are being put in place.

“It’s not so much large changes in the curriculum,” Wakeham said. “It’s a focus on areas we thought we could make improvements.”

Wakeham said that one group of teachers is focusing on reading comprehension, and will outline strategies for improvement. Another goal is to improve formative assessment to help teachers reach more students.

Wakeham and his wife, Alexis, live in Trenton with their two daughters.

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