By Megan Kelley
The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education met on Monday and unanimously agreed on selecting Ben Kirby as the district’s new superintendent.
In the past several weeks, the board had pored over dozens of applications and held interviews for their top candidates, dwindling the process down to the final two candidates: Ben Kirby, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services at South Lyon Community Schools; and Venessa Keesler, Deputy Superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education.
“What a privilege it has been to be a part of the superintendent search process, a process for which I’ve been completely invested and a process in which I have learned a lot from everyone involved. Tonight, I am very excited to share with you all that my selection and recommendation for our next superintendent is Mr. Ben Kirby,” board Vice-President Birgit McQuiston said.
“He’s been a consistent, successful leader his entire career and he’s experienced in some of the most difficult positions in which a school district has. He wants students to be the highest and best versions of themselves and he desires this of his staff as well…Mr. Kirby will honor the past as we grow into the future…I believe we’ve found in Mr. Kirby a solid leader with the strengths and skills to carry Lake Orion Community Schools into a very bright future,” McQuiston said.
Other board members echoed McQuiston’s words in their selection of Kirby, each stating various reasons for their decision with an air of enthusiasm for what the future holds for LOCS.
“Our current team is so strong that it makes finding someone with the right talent, experience, perspective and personality very difficult to do and that’s a wonderful challenge. To find an all-star to join a team of all-stars is not an easy thing,” said Trustee Nate Butki. “The path forward is exciting and encouraging. I’m extremely grateful for Heidi (Mercer, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning) for setting the high bar in the field; for cabinet and administration for exemplifying what it means to be a high performing team; and to our teachers and staff for making our district a talent magnet.
“I think both candidates would be exceptional, and looking back across the entire process with a careful eye and rigor, I’m glad to support Mr. Kirby, an all-star to join a team of all-stars. He has the tools to join and contribute on day one,” Butki said.
While COVID-19 has already impacted nearly every aspect of schooling, it is anticipated to continue to be a factor in education even in the 2020-2021 school year. Board Secretary Dana Mermell spoke to this and how it factored into her decision to endorse Kirby.
“During the site visits I asked how Mr. Kirby handled parent backlash regarding his districts COVID response. Several people looked at me puzzled, they said Mr. Kirby was leading the charge and that he is a proactive communicator. Parents were updated regularly, and the community was happy with how the crisis was handled. I believe having him at the helm as we navigate this school year will be of great value to our district,” Mermell said.
While, two weeks ago, board President Jim Weidman suggested that he would be in favor of putting the search on pause and coming back at a later date, he too decided to endorse Kirby before the board unanimously voted to hire Kirby as superintendent, pending board approval of a contractual agreement.
To close out the meeting, Weidman, with the rest of the board present, called Kirby to give him the news.
“I’m incredibly humbled and honored to be selected as the superintendent and I really look forward to growing with the district and building successful relationships with the board and staff and students and the community, and I’m really looking forward to meeting everybody in person,” Kirby said.
The board is expected to officially hire Kirby on July 6 with his first official work day being July 20.