The search is over: Dowagiac Union Schools names new superintendent

Published 11:20 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

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DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac Union Schools’ new superintendent is a familiar face in the community.

The DUS Board of Education announced it has offered the position to Greg Blomgren, High School Principal at St. Joseph Public Schools in St. Joseph, contingent upon successful contract negotiations and a site visit. 

Blomgren will begin on July 1 and will replace Jonathan Whan, who announced his retirement last year. Matthew Waggoner, Director of Curriculum at Watervliet Public Schools, was the other final candidate.

“I think what’s pretty cool about the whole situation is that they are two great candidates that are actually very different,” said Trustee Jeff de Varona. “I think that they both would be really good in the right situation. I could probably spend 10 minutes on each of their strengths so instead, I just gotta go with who feels like the better fit in order to drive Dowagiac in the direction that I believe that the community wants Dowagiac to go and that would be Greg Blomgren.”

Blomgren graduated from Grand View College in 1996 where he played three years of college basketball. He earned his teaching certification from the University of Wisconsin at Parkside in 1999. He has served as principal of St. Joseph High School since 2016 and has been with the district since 2009, serving in roles such as the Dean of Students, Assistant Principal and head boys basketball coach. Prior to that, he spent six years with Dowagiac Union Schools as a biology teacher and boys basketball coach, including spending one season as coach of both the boys and girls teams. He currently lives in Sister Lakes.

Blomgren emphasized that when he left the district in 2009, he did not leave unhappy with his position.

“I had an opportunity to develop and to become a leader,” he said. “I took on an admin role and was head coach at the largest school district in our Southwest Michigan community. For me, that was a challenge and a step of growth. Without that time away, I don’t know if I’d be back here with you today.”

Blomgren’s interview Thursday lasted just over one hour. After asking standard questions at the first-round interview last week, the board was able to query Szucs on more in-depth topics, such as how his relationships established during his previous stint in the district would impact his role as superintendent as well as how he plans to attract students and retain staff. During his presentation, he discussed his five biggest priorities would be upon assuming the role of superintendent:

  • Develop a Consistent and District Wide Governing Model
  • Promote a Positive Culture-Relationships!
  • Foster and Grow Student Achievement
  • Provide Quality Instructional Strategies
  • Ensure Financial Responsibility

“What I hope to do in coming to Dowagiac is not to reinvent the district but to hone in on the points of pride that we have here in Dowagiac and continue to grow those programs to help retain our families and help bring people in,” he said. “We also need to acknowledge and own where we’re at. Where are the areas that we need to improve and be blunt with ourselves that these are points that we need to address and to help ask the questions and guide the change to drive those changes and to make improvements that are necessary.”

For Board President Robert Ickes, what stood out to him the most about Blomgren was his ties to the district and his desire for open communication.

“He’s got a lot of history here,” Ickes said. “He’s about relationships; I think we can have communication with him about the hard subjects if we need to. He’s got the knowledge, he’s got the drive and he’s got the love for our community.”

While the board acknowledged the decision was a challenging one, the decision to select Blomgren was unanimous.

“I feel he really wants to be part of this community,” said Trustee Stephanie Tucker. “He will be part of this community, he’s going to be out in the community, he’s going to be approachable, he can communicate and he’s going to do what is best for our students. His ‘all means all’ is going to be for everybody and I think he’s going to take where we’re looking to go with our learning and overall in the right direction.”

Blomgren is eager to take the district to the next level and plans on being a Chieftain for life.

“I feel strongly about coming back here,” he said. “This is not a step for me, I would end my career here, if provided the opportunity, in this district. I look forward to the opportunity.”