Brady, Wolff finalists for Centreville superintendent
CENTREVILLE — Centreville Public Schools has its two finalists for the job of superintendent, and they’re both familiar names to the area.
Following candidate interviews during a special meeting Wednesday, the board selected current interim superintendent Chad Brady and Nottawa Community School Principal/Superintendent Jerome Wolff for a second round of interviews, which will be held Saturday, April 30 beginning at 9 a.m. at the high school’s media center.
Along with Brady and Wolff, Plainwell High School Principal Jeremy Wright, and Goshen (Ind.) Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Barry Younghans also interviewed during the four-hour meeting.
Board President Jeff Troyer said Wednesday’s first round of interviews went well overall.
“Tonight, I think, was a great first round. All four candidates were superb, and all the board members had consensus that saw our top two candidates to bring back,” Troyer said. “We’ve got two great candidates. They’re both community-driven and focused on our specific community, and I’m looking forward to the 30th.”
Brady, who has been the interim superintendent since January, has been with Centreville Public Schools since 2018 as the principal of Centreville Junior/Senior High School. Previously, he was an assistant principal at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo for one year, and a teacher at Kalamazoo Central High School from 2007 to 2017. He holds a Bachelors in Political Science and United States History from Western Michigan University, and a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Purdue University.
Wolff has been the superintendent and principal of the Nottawa Community School District since 2017. He was previously a kindergarten teacher and fourth grade math teacher at Centreville Elementary School for four years, and a teacher and principal at St. John’s Lutheran School in Sturgis from 2004 to 2013. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a Master’s Degree in education from Martin Luther College in Minnesota.
During Wednesday’s interview session, all four candidates were asked the same 12 questions, which covered a variety of topics. Members of the public in attendance were also encouraged to fill out sheets with their opinions of the candidates.
In his interview, Brady briefly discussed the thought process as to why he wanted to go for the position, saying in the last couple of months, although he didn’t feel like going for the permanent job at first, the position of superintendent “suits me well.”
“I didn’t go looking for a superintendent job, in fact it wasn’t anything I’m necessarily pursuing. But what I am pursuing is the superintendent job of Centreville Public Schools, and that’s the difference,” Brady said. “That’s because I believe in our district, I believe in the school board, I believe in the staff, and I believe most importantly in our community and our kids. I know what direction we can take our district, and I think we can go to places we’ve never been before.”
When it comes to taking the pulse of the community, Brady said it starts with “setting the tone of being open and approachable.”
“Having a level of trust and being honest is important. My time as high school principal, parents and staff and students have known they can come talk to me,” Brady said. “Hearing their feedback is extremely important in the direction we travel and the decisions we make.”
Brady was later asked about what methods he’s used to attract and retain high-quality staff. He said that subject was something he was “excited to talk about,” bringing up the recently-approved Centreville Education Association contract and the need to do so before the next school year. He said he was a firm believer in “thinking outside of the box” when it comes to recruitment and retainment, adding that he sent two teachers to promote the district at the recent job fair at Glen Oaks Community College.
“When your staff speaks highly of the district in which they work, they are the best promoters of the positions you’re trying to fill,” Brady said.
Brady said his weaknesses include the fact that he’s never been a superintendent before, that he needs to continue to grow in learning about construction details, and that budgets will be a challenge. However, he said he is willing to learn more and he’s willing to ask questions to do so.
In his interview, Wolff said in his time with Nottawa, the district has done “amazing things,” including expanding enrollment by 33 percent and getting the community to invest $1 million into the district. He said in the last couple years, he’s been asked to apply for other superintendent jobs, and was even considered to be the interim superintendent in Centreville back in January. With the Centreville job, he talked with ISD Superintendent Teresa Belote, who encouraged him to go for it.
“I told her what I’m talking to you about, and she said, ‘What’s the difference?’ I said the same things I said about Nottawa five years earlier, I know people here, I care about the community, I love the school, and she said, ‘Jerome, you’ve answered your own question. You need to go ahead and search this out,’” Wolff said. “So, I just kind of feel drawn in to this district.”
When asked about how he handled a challenging situation to bring people to a consensus, he brought up the issue of face masks in schools and how he handled it as superintendent.
“What do you do when a larger segment of your population doesn’t want this, and then you have a fairly decent size, a formidable enough size, of your population that does? That was some new territory,” Wolff said. “It became a matter of making sure that we got really clear really quick on policy and practice, and we got really clear really quick on what is law, what is rule, and how to do that. We also wanted to be careful not to put the district into a compromising situation.”
Wolff was later asked about any remodeling and construction work that had gone on under his tenure. He talked about the extensive challenges in getting renovations done at the school when he started at Nottawa back in 2017.
“I walked through the school, it was all chalkboards except for the one whiteboard in the staff lounge, then we had only four working doc cams and maybe five working projectors. It was in tough shape, and I said, ‘that’s great,’ because there was nowhere for Nottawa to go but up,” Wolff said. “We began a self-study on what our needs were, then we started looking for money and partnerships. … I was learning about the difference between bonds and sinking funds at the time, and thought about bonds, which had failed in the district previously, and I learned about sinking funds and how to leverage tools on sinking funds so we could emergency borrow against that. We gave information to the voters, and even with the sinking fund passed, it has one of the lowest millage rates in the county.”
Wolff said one of his big weaknesses or opportunities is that he doesn’t like to say “no” very often.
“That can wear on you a little bit, especially when you’re wearing a couple of hats already,” Wolff said. “My primary focus is supporting those who support our children, and yes, sometimes that’s meant having to sub in a classroom because we have a shortage, or yes to doing a task that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of my job. That’s something I’m aware of, so I try to manage it, but it’s hard to say no.”
Following the interviews, there was a brief discussion on the candidates, with trustee TJ Reed nominating both candidates to move on.
“Between the four people we heard, the one thing I liked is they both aren’t just applying, they’re applying because it’s Centreville,” Reed said. “No offense to the other candidates, but I believe those two truly mean they want to be in this district.”
For the final round of interviews on April 30, which will be livestreamed via Google Meets, community members, district staff and interested parties are encouraged to attend. While members of the public will be able to submit questions, those interested in doing so must be physically present at the interviews. There will be an opportunity to provide written feedback to the board after each interview.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or email@example.com.