Buchanan to interview superintendent candidates starting Monday

BUCHANAN – Buchanan school board members have selected seven people including three current or former district employees to interview next week to become the district’s next superintendent. A first round of interviews is set for Monday, July 13 and Tuesday, July 14, with a second round likely to take place the following week.

The school board signed a separation agreement with current Superintendent Tim Donahue in May. The agreement called for Donahue to stay on until the end of August to facilitate the transition to new leadership. Donahue has been with the district for three years, coming from the Potterville School District.

Donahue’s tenure at Buchanan was not without controversy. A local resident attempted a recall effort against four board members last fall over their alleged failure to properly evaluate Donahue. Concerns were also raised over his decision to shift district personnel into new positions and his alleged lack of support of district staff.

The current search is being conducted by the Michigan Association of School Boards. MASB search consultant Mark Dobias said his firm conducted an online survey as well as hosted four public meetings in June to gain residents’ input about the next superintendents. He said his firm also held a series of virtual meetings with staff.

A total of 23 people applied for the post, and school board members whittled that number down to seven at a board meeting last week, he said. The goal is for board members to then decide who they want to bring back for more interviews the following week. The position was advertised with a salary range of $110,000 to $130,000.

Next week’s interviews will be hosted in person between board members and applicants but virtually for members of the public. A link will be provided on the district’s website for people to attend the meeting virtually and to provide input through an online form.

Dobias said Monday’s interviews are set to start at 5 p.m. and Tuesday’s at 5:30 p.m. Interviews are scheduled to each last between 45 and 50 minutes. Board members will decide at the end of Tuesday’s interviews who they want to bring back.

Four people are scheduled to be interviewed Monday. They are Christopher Machiniak, Brian Brown, Brandon Waggoner and Dorothy Blackwell.

Machiniak and Brown both worked previously in the Buchanan school district. Machiniak is currently the regional director of Career and Technical Education for the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency. Previously, he was the principal at Bridgman High School, the assistant principal at Buchanan High School and taught in Dowagiac.

Brown is currently the business manager of the River Valley school district in Three Oaks. His past experience includes 14 years teaching in Buchanan and work in the financial field at United Federal Credit Union and Shoreline Bank.

Waggoner is currently the assistant superintendent in Berrien Springs, a post he has held since 2018. Previously he served as that district’s executive director of technology and virtual academy director. Before that, he taught in the River Valley school district.

Blackwell is the superintendent of the Vassar school district, a post she has held since 2016. Previously, she was an academic consultant for the Ingham Intermediate School District and interim superintendent of the Waverly school district. She was also the curriculum director and a principal in Waverly.

Tuesday’s interviews are with Patricia Robinson, Mark Kurland and Kelly Gaideski.

Robinson is the former assistant superintendent of the Benton Harbor school district. She served as the interim superintendent there in 2018 and 2019-20. Previously, she worked as the district’s curriculum director and as a principal and teacher in Benton Harbor.

Kurland is the current executive director of academic services in Buchanan, a post he’s held since last year. He has spent much of his career in Buchanan where he’s been the principal and assistant principal at the middle school for 17 years. He has also taught in the Benton Harbor and Dowagiac school districts.

Gaideski is currently the curriculum and instruction director with the St. Joseph public schools, a post she’s held since 2009. Previously, she was a consultant with Berrien RESA, had her own consulting firm and taught in the high school and alternative education program with the Niles school district.

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