Archived Story

Daniel, Clapp interviewed

Published 10:51pm Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dr. Mark Daniel
Dr. Mark Daniel

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

Dowagiac Board of Education led off three nights of 90-minute superintendent interviews with six candidates at the middle school cafeteria Tuesday night with Dr. Mark Daniel, principal of Leo, Ind., Junior/Senior High School in the Fort Wayne area for 13 years, and Bruce  Clapp, deputy director of elementary education, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, Wyoming.

Clapp, a Fremont native whose parents taught, formerly worked in the Benton Harbor district in Berrien County.

Though leading his school to National Blue-Ribbon Status – the only such high school in Indiana to achieve such recognition – Daniel next year would be in charge of raising funds for his public district.

He earned his doctorate three years ago and offsets his lack of superintendent experience and building-level budget limitations with a business degree and a background teaching accounting.

His school has some 1,260 students in a growing district of 10,000. He and his wife, a guidance counselor, have four daughters.

“Test scores make you a National Blue-Ribbon School,” and Dowagiac’s lag Michigan despite annual progress.

“We’ve led our entire state on our internship programs” and helped write Indiana’s curriculum, he said.

Career academies are offered in such areas as engineering technology, fine arts, business, social services and education.

“The turning point in our school, as we started forming community advisory teams, things just started to explode in a positive way,” Daniel said.

“Prior to that I was an assistant principal and athletic director for three years” and taught at the school from which he graduated, Fort Wayne North Side.

“This appeals to me because I’m at that stage of my life where three of our daughters will be at college and the other will be a junior. We’re starting to downsize. We’re water people and we’ve always loved Michigan. I know Dowagiac has a history and reputation for excellence. Your test scores are behind state average, but that could be targeted” for improvement.

Bruce Clapp
Bruce Clapp

His bachelor’s degree in business was earned at the University of Toledo
in marketing management. “I come to education with a non-traditional viewpoint and I look at things in terms of three-year, five-year and 10-year plans. I believe in rigor, but also in making the curriculum relevant to students.”

He described his leadership style as collaborative and forging partnerships to create a “culture of learning” through his “unique background.”

Clapp graduated from Western Michigan University at a time when teaching jobs were in short supply, so he became a long-term substitute in Grand Ledge.

Similarly, he finished his master’s degree when there were meager offerings for administrators. He taught a variety of lower and middle grades in science and technology, including a computer lab.

He began his administrative career at a Catholic school.

Back in public school, he came to Benton Harbor the year that district came out of its desegregation order. “They were back in the real world, where MEAP scores matter.”

Clapp’s task as principal was to combine two magnet schools which had been rivals in the Fairplain East building.

That involved getting beyond their historic competition to working together.

There was a wide range of above-grade-level skills and such assets as a dance studio and instructor, theater and art three times a week.

“We took the best of both and brought them together,” he said. “In two years we brought up the MEAP scores.”

Clapp accepted a position in Southfield with a bilingual magnet school with students from 25 different countries who spoke 34 languages.

His English as a second language teacher was empowered to where she became Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Southfield, however, “was first to experience recession in the housing market. My last year there they had 1,100 foreclosures in the district. They had 10 elementaries at the time,” but the writing was on the wall for the most recently hired administrator.
He would be first to go.

Clapp likes West Michigan and he found the job in Wyoming, whose test scores were among the lowest in the Kent County Intermediate School District.

“Now we’re knocking on the door of East Grand Rapids and Forest Hills,” he said.
Visits to Southwestern Michigan College brought him through Dowagiac from Grand Ledge.

“I’ve always liked what I’ve seen here and I’ve been watching. With Peg Stowers retiring, I thought, ‘Here I come.’ I’m glad you liked what you saw on the resume. Now we get a chance to talk.”

Wednesday, June 2, also at DMS, Albion Superintendent Fred Clarke will be questioned at 7, followed by Brooke Ballee, elementary principal for Van Buren Public Schools in Belleville, at 8:30.

Rounding out the interviews on Thursday, June 3, at 6 p.m. at Union High School media center, 701 W. Prairie Ronde St., will be Mrs. Storm Lairson, Reese Public Schools superintendent, followed at 7:30 by Joseph Trimboli, superintendent of nearby Lawton Community Schools in Van Buren County.

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