HILLMAN - Jason McElrath will be the new superintendent and grades 7-12 principal as the Hillman Community Schools Board of Education reached a decision on Tuesday to hire him after a long process of applicant review and interviews that began in July.
McElrath comes from Manistee and is currently the dean of students for Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools. He handles all K-12 student discipline, parent concerns, school improvement and other building concerns and has worked there for 18 years in numerous leadership and teaching roles. He accepted the Hillman position, pending successful contract negotiations and final background checks.
"If everything goes as planned, we'll have him in the job on Oct. 21," interim Superintendent Tom Harmon said. "We were lucky, we had three candidates that were a good match, but he stood out a little bit. He's a good fit for the district."
The board was looking for someone who would have the experience to carry Hillman to the next level and be able to work well with the staff and students.
"He met a lot of the requirements we were looking for," board President Brad McLaren said. "He has been doing all the functions we were looking for and comes highly recommended. He also has longevity with the district he was previously in, so we are hopeful he will come to Hillman and stay."
The average stay of a superintendent in one district ranges from two to three years and McLaren said it is hard on the staff members to continuously go through the change.
"He is familiar with the area and likes it here, so we hope he will decide to stay," McLaren said. "The district really deserves to have a professional leading it, and he is a professional."
In a recent press release through the school, McElrath said he is looking forward to expanding and continuing his career in Northeast Michigan, and is excited to serve the students.
The board was impressed with the number of highly qualified candidates who applied for the position, and believed any of the three finalists would be successful, but saw McElrath as the best candidate for the position.
"His interview was really phenomenal," McLaren said. "The decision to offer him the job was an all yes vote, 6-0, with board member Nathan Funk absent. I really want to commend our interim Superintendent Tom Harmon with all his help in guiding the process to get to where we are now."
Harmon has been serving as interim superintendent since July, and previously worked as interim superintendent at Hillman.
"I've been through this process many times, and I'm very familiar with it," Harmon said. "I worked on some of the scheduling, contacting and paperwork and helped create interview questions. I've been very impressed with the generosity of the board members' time and all of their hard work. Now that the board has made a selection, it's a matter of confirming everything and getting a timeline together."
Over the last few weeks, the board has been conducting interviews late into the night and diligently going through references and applicants.
"We've been in the meeting room many hours on this topic," McLaren said. "We were guided the right way and at a very aggressive pace to fill the position."
The next step in the process will be a site visit to McElrath's current district, and working out the parameters of his contract as soon as possible.
Harmon said he has enjoyed working with Hillman Schools, and will be helping McElrath with the transition once he is on board.
"Hopefully he will be a great match and move Hillman schools forward," Harmon said. "It's been a pleasure working here again, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be in Hillman. The staff and students and community have been great and very supportive."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.