Finch named Region 3 Superintendent of the Year

BIG RAPIDS – Collaboration is one of the strengths of the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District, according to Superintendent Curt Finch, and he stuck to the collaborative mindset when accepting his 2013 Region 3 Superintendent of the Year award from the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

“It’s a reflection on my administrative team and what we are trying to do to help local schools,” Finch said. “The best part is it comes from your peers. Being recognized by the (MOISD) board president and local superintendents is cool.”

Keith Konarska, superintendent of Grand Haven Area Public Schools, shares the 2013 Region 3 title with Finch. MASA awards the title annually, and regional winners move on to the possibility of state-level awards.

Finch and Konarska were honored Friday at the Kent Intermediate School District Conference Center.

“I was looking at things we had done in the ISD, particularly in the area of collaboration with the local (school districts) and changing our approach to work with them in a more supportive ways,” said MOISD Board of Education President Rick Christner, who nominated Finch for the award.

One area of collaboration Christner highlighted was the MOP Co-op, which allows local districts to share the cost of maintenance, technology and other itinerant staff as needed. The program started under Finch’s leadership, and other ISDs are starting to adopt their own model.

The MOISD includes six school districts and enrolled more than 8,800 students in 2011-12. Finch has been MOISD superintendent for eight years.

MASA selected the Superintendent of the Year from ISDs and local school districts in Region 3, which includes the following counties: Ottawa, Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana and Osceola.

It is unique for an ISD superintendent to be chosen for the distinction along with a local school district superintendent.

“It makes us more visible in the immediate West Michigan area and in the rest of the state, in terms of the types of things we try to do at the MOISD,” Christner said.

Lynn Gullekson, who has been superintendent of Crossroads Charter Academy for two years, was pleased to hear Finch received the Region 3 honor. He initially met Finch in a leadership class about 10 years ago, before the two started working together in Mecosta County.

“He leads by example. He is very service-oriented,” Gullekson said of Finch. “I also admire his creativity. He takes challenges and turns them into opportunity.”

Gullekson also cited the MOP Co-op as a positive step MOISD has taken under Finch’s leadership. Finch’s emphasis on the “good-to-great” philosophy of continued improvement has benefited local districts, Gullekson added.

“He’s a man of great character and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him,” he said.

Finch sees the award as validation that the MOISD is working in the right direction to support local districts as well as the community.

When ISDs were established in Michigan, their main responsibility was pupil accounting. Now, the MOISD is known for services such as the MOP Co-op, the career center, professional development resources and special education classes. Moving forward, Finch predicts the state will rely on ISDs even more to connect community agencies and other resources.

“We just try to do the right thing, do what’s best for the kids, hire the right staff and help the local districts – hopefully the results reflect our mission,” Finch said.