Board hosts final superintendent interviews

Expected action to take place March 10

LEROY — After completing its final interview on Monday, the Pine River Area Schools Board of Education is on track to potentially choose a new superintendent on March 10.

Six candidates were interviewed by the board on Feb. 19 and 20, and board members narrowed down their top two candidates to Andrew Secor, an elementary school principal with Cedar Springs Public Schools, and Matthew Lukshaitis, currently a high school principal and curriculum director with Mason Consolidated Schools in Erie.

However, according to Michigan Leadership Institute Regional President Scott Crosby, Secor withdrew his application over the weekend, leaving Lukshaitis as the final interview on Monday.

With his family members present and showing support, Lukshaitis answered 13 questions from board members, a couple of questions from audience members and asked the board questions he had regarding the position and district.

When asked about the tough decisions he has had to make in the past and how he believes those decisions should be dealt with, Lukshaitis said he also has had to close school buildings when he was a superintendent with Ontonagon Area Schools. Decisions will only continue to get tougher as budgets shrink and choices regarding staff arise, he said, but he prefers to get the input of others and set up a five-to 10-year plan when setting district goals.

Communicating ideas with other members of staff or committees is a great way to work together to find a solution to whatever issue needs to be dealt with, he added. Progress for education needs to be protected at all costs and lines need to be drawn regarding what cannot be cut.

Lukshaitis said he prides himself on helping schools turn around academically, providing positive, welcoming and safe building atmospheres and encouraging interaction between staff and students. He enjoys visiting classrooms on a daily basis, speaking with students and building relationships with them in the hallway or during lunch and attending district sporting events. Being visible in the buildings and throughout the community is important, Lukshaitis added.

Board members asked if he had any concerns about the superintendent position, and Lukshaitis said he was less worried because he has done the job before and knows it takes time, the best information and collaboration to make sound decisions for the district and those within it. Learning curves with PRAS, however, should be expected, he added.

During board discussion, board president Jim Peterson felt confident following the interview, noting he believed Lukshaitis is a seasoned veteran in the education field, a collaborative individual and thoughtful before making decisions.

"I feel very positive about the interview," Peterson said. "He's a great person, is a true educator, has a tender heart and has a broad range of experience. I think he would make an excellent superintendent."

Other board members agreed with Peterson, adding they feel comfortable with Lukshaitis and would feel confident with him as the PRAS leader. Others, including building administrators, said the second interview changed their minds in a positive way from the initial interview and would be supportive of whatever decision was made.

In the week ahead, select board and staff members of the district will travel to Mason Consolidated Schools for a site visit. The board is expected to make a decision regarding the appointment of Lukshaitis to the superintendent position at the regularly scheduled board meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, March. 10.