Hartsig ready to take next step as new Dowagiac superintendent

Published 8:25 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ten years ago, Paul Hartsig decided make the transition from the classroom to the front office at Dowagiac Union High School, succeeding Ken Dockerty as school principal.

Paul Hartsig

Paul Hartsig

Now, Hartsig is ready to embark on the next step in his education career, this time as the new superintendent of the Dowagiac Union school district.

“I guess every 10 years I get the itch to move on to something else,” Hartsig joked.

The Dowagiac Board of Education announced that it had selected Hartsig from the pool of candidates for the position earlier this week, following his strong performance during his interview on Saturday. Hartsig will officially take over the reigns from departing Superintendent Mark Daniel in July.

The new position is the largest milestone thus far in the Dowagiac resident’s 21-year career. Growing up in Tawas City, Hartsig was exposed to the education profession at an early age, with his aunt, uncle and grandparents all working as teachers throughout the Lake Huron area, he said.

“I knew I was going to college, and I knew about education through my family, so that’s what I decided to do,” he said.

After graduating from Central Michigan University with a degree in earth sciences and mathematics, Hartsig took a teaching position in Savannah, Missouri before moving back to Michigan to teach at Galien.

In 1995, Hartsig took a position at Dowagiac Union High School, teaching math and science for nine years before deciding to apply for the open principal position in 2004. Although he was initially hesitant to make the transition from teacher to administrator, his prior experience heading up the district’s migrant program helped prepare him for the task of managing the school’s students and teachers, he said.

“My goal as principal was to make sure that every student had the opportunity they had to succeed, and that teachers had the resources necessary to make student success possible,” he said.

In 2012, Hartsig left the district after being hired by Bridgman Public Schools as their high school principal. The administrator parted ways amicably with his long time employer, pursuing the new job as an opportunity to serve a smaller community.

“After 17 years, the only outlook I had was how things were done in Dowagiac,” Hartsig said. “That wasn’t a bad thing, but it was nice to get a new perspective.”

Hartsig and his family continued to live in Dowagiac, even after he took the position, he said.

“I do all my business in Dowagiac,” he said. “We shop at Harding’s and Family Fare. I get my old changed in Dowagiac. I get my haircut in Dowagiac. I’m always trying to support our downtown businesses as much as I can. We never left; we never put our house up for sale. We never once thought of moving.”

Having only been away from the district for several years, the educator has years of experience working with many of the teachers and administrators he will so be in charge of, including his former assistant principal, Kelly Millin, who will take over as principal of the high school this fall.

“Having that background knowledge of their strengths will let me get up to speed even quicker,” he said.

The most important part of his new position will be the fact that Hartsig will rejoin his family inside the district, he said. His wife, Diane, teaches fifth-grade at Justus Gage elementary. The two have three children, Lewis, Mae and Millie, who attend school in Dowagiac as well.

“I always used to ask myself, what would I do for my kid in this situation,” Hartsig said. “Now, I get a chance to practice that.”

Despite the increased workload from his current job at Bridgman, Hartsig said he is ready to write the next chapter in his career.

“Things are going great in Dowagiac,” Hartsig said. “We have some outstanding teachers, some super talented kids and some great people in the system.”