Kent ISD superintendent leaving at end of school year

Posted at 7:51 PM, Dec 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-15 19:53:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kent Intermediate School District Superintendent Kevin A. Konarska on Monday announced plans to retire at the end of the current school year.

Konarska led the Kent ISD through a period of change, extending student programming and business services to member districts as their leaders struggled through the recession and revenue reductions from the state.

“It will be very hard to see Kevin leave,” said ISD Board President Claudia Bajema. “He has made such a difference in the schools we serve and in the opportunities available to the more than 100,000 students throughout our service region.

“We have opened new programs to meet specific student needs, a laboratory school to serve students, teachers and administrators, and we’ve become a statewide leader in instructional technology,” said Bajema, who served on the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education before joining the Kent ISD Board. “Kevin is humble, he’s kind and he’s caring. He’s one of the best educational leaders I’ve had the privilege of working with as a board member,”

“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done at Kent ISD, and I’m proud of the leadership we’ve developed within the organization,” Konarska said. “We expanded services to member districts even as we persevered through the greatest economic downturn of our lifetime. This is a great organization and we have the privilege of serving strong school districts with exemplary leaders.”

Konarska has been in education for 35 years, beginning as a speech and language pathologist with the Grand Rapids Public Schools and later serving as an administrator in that district and Forest Hills before becoming superintendent of the Thornapple Kellogg district.

He will begin his ninth year with the Kent ISD in January.

Konarska said he is looking forward to having more flexibility in his schedule and the opportunity to spend more time with his adult children on the West Coast while also exploring education consulting opportunities.

The Kent ISD’s student programming diversified and expanded following an extended period of study on secondary education by the Kent Intermediate Superintendents Association. Three central themes emanated from that work – a personalized educational experience for each student, cultivating student voice and designing instruction and content to be more relevant to student needs.

Following that study, the Kent ISD:

  • Created Innovation High School, a project-based learning environment where students work in teams on real-world projects. The school hosts hundreds of visitors each year to observe the instructional model and it is a national demonstration site for the New Tech Network.
  • Created MySchool@Kent and SuccessLink, blended face-to-face and online instructional programs to meet the needs of students and school districts in need of a virtual instructional environment.
  • Expanded the Kent Career Technical Center’s health sciences and culinary arts programs to the Downtown Market and expanded the ability of students in all career technical education programs to access college credit while in high school.
  • Became the first aviation school in the nation affording high school students the ability to earn the Aviation Electronics Certification, the gateway to avionics employment.
  • Expanded STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming, including the development of mechatronics and alternative energy programs.
  • Created a new early childhood department through consolidating member district Great Start Readiness Programming, now offering early childhood opportunities to more than 2,500 students throughout the region.

The Kent ISD also greatly expanded services to member school districts. Several districts now receive human resources and business services from the ISD and four districts are engaged in a technology consortium that provided a higher level of service at a lower cost to the districts.

In addition, the Kent ISD last year launched School News Network, a unique and independent education news site providing readers a window into participating schools throughout the district’s service area.

The Kent ISD also extended its services and partnerships with other ISDs, serving as the lead in a seven-ISD regional technology initiative through its data warehouse, joining a partnership with the Ottawa Area ISD for pupil accounting, creating a statewide consortium for self-funded employee retiree benefits and a regional self-funded health care consortium.

The Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon Area ISDs last year also joined in a regional education advocacy partnership — the West Michigan Talent Triangle — which works in conjunction with area business organizations to raise the skill level of graduates and create a steady talent supply chain to fuel the region’s economic development.