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Forest Hills Public Schools Hosts Final Superintendent Interviews

A look inside the process to select the new Superintendent
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Kasen Wooters

Cover photo of FHPS Board of Education Interview Setup

Tuesday, March 19th, the FHPS Board Of Education interviewed the superintendent finalists in their search to replace former superintendent Dan Behm. 

FHPS announced that a plethora of candidates applied for the position, but the School Board was able to narrow it down to five. 

Benjamin Kirby, Superintendent, Lake Orion Community Schools

Allen Cumings, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Greenville Public Schools

Phillip (Ric) Seager, Superintendent, Watervliet Public Schools

Jennifer Fee, Superintendent, St. Joseph Public Schools

Gary Kinzer, Superintendent, Mason Public School

All five candidates had individual interviews in front of the Forest Hills Public School District Board of Education, where each candidate had 1 hour and 30 minutes of questioning on the “hot seat”. All candidates were asked the same questions during the first rounds. Questions ranged from thoughts on the district’s current climate and culture, to thoughts about developing a strategic plan. Board members took turns asking different questions, leading the candidates through the hour and a half interview session. 

After the final first round interview, FHPS put out a statement sharing an update of the process. “The Forest Hills Public Schools Board of Education moved closer to selecting a new Superintendent of Schools,” the district wrote. The board announced that they were going forward with Gary Kinzer, Superintendent, Mason Public Schools, and Benjamin Kirby, Superintendent, Lake Orion Community Schools

The community had the opportunity to meet the two candidates during the district’s meet and greet, where candidates made their rounds having conversations and sharing their thoughts on key issues. The district provided food, drinks, delicious cookies, and an open house style setup at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center.

Photo of a Forest Hills Public Schools decorated cookie (Kasen Wooters).

Mr. Benjamin Kirby is currently serving as the Superintendent of Lake Orion Community Schools. Kirby has served as superintendent of Lake Orion Community Schools for nearly four years. Before that, he served as assistant superintendent for administrative services at South Lyon Community Schools, and as an administrator, principal and teacher in Ionia Public Schools, according to his resume. Overall, Kirby has accumulated 31 years in public education.

Dr. Gary Kinzer is the current superintendent of Mason Public Schools, just southeast of Lansing. Kinzer has been serving as superintendent of Mason Public Schools since 2022. Previously, he was assistant superintendent of human resources at Novi Community School District, and principal, assistant principal, teacher and athletic director at Okemos Public Schools, according to his resume.

The interviews started with a 20 minute presentation regarding each candidate’s 90 day plan on how they would reshape the district. Both candidates shared similar goals during the presentation, each showing what their version of a transition would look like. Mr. Kirby’s extensive 90 day plan slide deck can be found at benkirbyinspire.com. Dr. Kinzer explained that a transition “goes well beyond 90 days.” Kinzer walked through different stages of his transition, focusing mainly on staff and administration relationships within the first few weeks on the job.

In total, each candidate received roughly 75 minutes worth of interview time. Different from the first round, there were over 70 questions created that came from FHPS staff, students, and community members. The board members took turns asking questions that they saw fit the current trajectory of the interview, and were able to ask follow up questions or ask for a more specific answer. 

During the first round, this type of questioning was prohibited. Every candidate was given the same questions, and was able to interpret each question in their own way. This second and final round was free flowing, and vastly different for each candidate, leading to an eruption of applause for both Mr. Kirby and Dr. Kinzer after the interviews wrapped up.

Both Kinzer and Kirby expressed their excitement towards the opportunity of serving as the Superintendent of Forest Hills Public Schools, and eagerly await the decision from the school board. Each candidate views FHPS as an end goal for their career, and would leap at the chance of leading this district as it presents unique and enticing challenges that they both hope to solve.

***

Editor’s note: Information regarding FHPS superintendent final selection may not be up to date. Information within this article is up to date as of 8:00 PM on March 19th, 2024.

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About the Contributor
Kasen Wooters, Staff Writer
Kasen Wooters is a sophomore at FHE, and a First-year Hawk Herald writer. Outside of school hours, Kasen enjoys working in the auditorium, running audio, lights, and microphones for the many events that come through Eastern. In his free time, Kasen likes to work with local politicians and provide opportunities to high school students across the area. Kasen loves to listen to music and loves collecting vinyl records.
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