Edwardsburg school board selects next superintendent

Published 9:22 am Friday, March 30, 2018

EDWARDSBURG — At 6 p.m. last night, in a black suit, Jim Knoll sat in the middle of the Edwardsburg Administration Building boardroom as he was interviewed for a second time by the board of education for the position of superintendent. Twenty-one local community members sat on either side of him.

His speech was calm — the only sign of nerves coming from his shoes. Wearing his son’s blue and orange “Eddies” socks, Knoll’s feet quietly fidgeted as he answered each question.

“Ms. Holdread asked me about wearing an orange tie tonight,” said Knoll, the current EPS assistant superintendent. “I didn’t wear one, but I do have my son’s good luck socks on.”

The luck of the socks must have worn off on him, because by the end of the night the board had offered him the position of superintendent. He received a unanimous vote from the six present board members.

James Knoll

Knoll, who left after his interview and was not present for the voting process, received a call after the decision to offer him the job was made and was put on speaker phone for the entire room to hear.

“Jim, on behalf of the board, we would like to offer you the position of superintendent,” said Birdella Holdread, the school board president.

“I gratefully accept,” Knoll said.

The room applauded.

“I will do my very best for our district and our students,” Knoll said at the end of the phone conversation.

Knoll has worked at Edwardsburg Public Schools for the past three school years. From 2015-2017 he was the principal of Edwardsburg Middle School, and, for the past school year, he has been the assistant superintendent.

In total, the interview portion of the meeting lasted just under two hours. After asking standard questions at the first-round interview on Tuesday, the board was able to query Knoll on more in-depth topics such as what would he do for the school if he had an unlimited budget and how he intended to ensure the safety of the students.

He also presented a “First 90 Day” plan, outlining how he would proceed if he were to be offered the superintendent position. In the presentation, he shared how he planned to finalize his new contract with the board, investigate the possibility of a retreat with the board, review board policies and minutes, continue to shadow current superintendent Sherman Ostrander and do district research.

Knoll discussed meeting with school stakeholders, including  office staff, administrative team, instructional staff, support staff, students, other area superintendents, the media and community members.

“The goal is, I want to keep the community involved,” Knoll said during his interview. “I want to keep them informed and I want to keep them a part of the school district because they are a part of the school district.”

After Knoll was dismissed from the interview, the board was debriefed by Gary Rider from the Michigan Leadership Institute, who was brought in to help facilitate the district in the process of hiring its next superintendent.

“We have a lot of information on Jim,” Holdread said during the debriefing. “I think he meets all of the expectations of the profile. He has a little bit of experience in everything, and he’s willing to improve and continue his education, which is very vital and important for any superintendent position.”

After the debrief is when the board motioned and voted to hire Knoll as the next EPS superintendent. The board has through June to finalize his contract, and Holdread, Kevin Goggins and Michael will be the board members most involved with that process.

In the meantime, he will get started on his “First 90 Day” plan.

At around 8:20 p.m., the audience began to file out the door.

“I think the biggest thing is when you leave one of these is that you always hope that people feel they were listened to,” Rider said. “It’s not always in agreement. The credibility of the process lets people realize that they are not just making a decision, they are making an informed decision and that’s what their responsibility is.”

Rider also said the board was very reliable throughout the process.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said. “This is my 32nd [superintendent search]. I think the process was very credible.”