Rider leaving Brandywine on Feb. 28

Published 7:31 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

By By MICHAEL C. GUILMETTE JR. / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Describing his imminent departure as "the hardest move we've ever made," Brandywine Community Schools Superintendent Gary Rider said leaving the school district after three years will not be easy for him, but the transition should be smooth for the schools.
Rider will be leaving Brandywine on Feb. 28, taking over as superintendent for the Thornapple Kellogg School District the following day.
"This is a family move for us," Rider said, adding his new position will bring him and his wife Sandy closer to their family in the Grand Rapids area. Middleville, where the district is headquartered, is located about 10 miles southeast of the city.
In the upcoming weeks, Rider said the district will be working on the new bond proposal that will be decided by the voters on May 8.
In the interim, Rider said Karen Weimer, the principal of Merritt Elementary School, will be fulfilling some of the duties of the superintendent position. He added the school board is planning to announce an interim superintendent shortly.
During the transition, Rider said the district will also concentrate on their curriculum mapping plan as well as their strategic plan and marketing plan. Even with the full agenda, he expects the transition to be "seamless."
"The initiatives we have begun are district initiatives, not 'Gary' initiatives," Rider said, adding he is getting credit he feels he does not deserve.
"This is an organization that has a vision where it wants to go," he said of the Brandywine district.
Rider said he has learned a great deal in his position, experience he will be taking to his new job.
"I have learned so much from the community about the necessity of relationships," he said. "This is the kind of community that knows each other."
He said once his intentions to leave became known, talk of consolidating the Niles and Brandywine school districts circulated, but he said Brandywine residents want to stay separate because they like what they have.
"It's not that people in Brandywine hate Niles," he said. "They just love what they have here in Brandywine."
Despite the difficult emotions he expects to face when he leaves, Rider said the planning for his family so far is also coming together smoothly.
"We closed on a house up there before my contract was settled," he said. "Now I just need to sell my condo."
Rider said he plans on this move being the last move he will make in his career, and he will also return to Niles to visit.
"We've made lifelong friends here, and it's not easy leaving them behind," Rider said.