Tim Webster chosen for next RCAPS superintendent

REED CITY — When it came time for Reed City Area Public Schools to pinpoint what truly is most important to the district, it said community investment — and in doing so tapped Tim Webster to be its next superintendent.

After 13 hours of interviews spread over three days this week and narrowing the field from six top candidates, RCAPS board of education voted 5-2 on Friday that Webster, the current Reed City Middle School principal, was the best choice for superintendent. Board members then unanimously agreed to enter into contract negotiations with him, with the intent of presenting a contract at the regular board meeting scheduled for June 17.

Ron Stoneman, superintendent of Redford Union Schools, was the other finalist invited back for a second interview on Friday.

Going into the superintendent search process — which began in April following an announcement that nine-year superintendent Steve Westhoff would retire — two main priorities for the next superintendent emerged from staff and community feedback, as well as the board's vision for the district: curriculum improvement and community involvement.

In reviewing their top two candidates, it became clear that each specialized in one of the priorities the board sought. Each candidate's strength proved the same as the other's weakness.

"Each candidate has the opposite thing to learn," board president Dan Boyer said during the deliberation process. "Mr. Stoneman needs to learn our culture, whereas Tim knows every facet of that. Ron would bring experience as a superintendent and the intricacies of that position. Tim would have to learn that."

Ultimately, it was a proven investment in the community that earned Webster the position.

Leading RCMS since 1997 and establishing a reputation of good staff relations and high morale in his building, Webster had an advantage of already knowing board members. They were confident in knowing what he would bring to the position.

"He's a known quantity," Boyer said in an endorsement for Webster just before the board voted. "I know Tim's a good person. I know Tim will take direction. We have a superstar (superintendent in Stoneman). Tim is a superstar when it comes to character and community.

"Ron may be a transformational leader. I'll never know for sure — if we select Tim — if I passed up on an opportunity to bring in the person who could do a lot of the things for Reed City I've wanted to see," Boyer added. "However, Ron is an unknown quantity. I don't want to open the paper in eight years and see I left the district with someone who wasn't good for the district."

During his interviews, Webster emphasized his team-oriented leadership style, saying one of his strengths is to identify the strengths of others and empower them to achieve success.

The board appreciated his realistic approach to improvement by establishing manageable goals and following through on them, as evidenced in numerous programs at RCMS that Webster helped establish in response to concerns raised by staff and students.

"There's two kinds of vision," Webster said during his interview. "I could sit at the top and say, 'This is my vision. Let's do it.' What I like to do is where we work together and have a shared vision. That should come from all of us so we all agree it's important."

Webster has a bachelors's degree in industrial education and a master's degree in education administration, both from Central Michigan University. He discussed a series of tragic events that took place at RCMS in his first year there and the process of re-establishing a sense of security for students and staff.

"You board members know me and know what I stand for," Webster said. "You know I'm firm, fair and consistent. You know people on my team enjoy working with me. You know I care about kids.

"You know I made the middle school the top building in the district, and it didn't start there," he added. "You know I love Reed City."

Stoneman, who has 10 years of experience as a superintendent, was a "paper perfect" candidate, board members said. However, they questioned his willingness to completely embrace Reed City as his own community.

Other finalists in consideration — from an initial field of 21 applicants — included Ryle Kiser, superintendent of Peck Community Schools; Catherine Cost, assistant superintendent of Farmington Public Schools; Anthony Habra, superintendent of Rudyard Area Schools; and Mandy Stewart, a high school principal for Lincoln Consolidated Schools.