Good luck, Susan Wooden

The Alpena Public Schools Board of Education has chosen Susan Wooden, a longtime educator with Alpena ties, to lead the district on an interim basis while the board searches for a permanent replacement for Superintendent John VanWagoner, who is leaving next month for the top job in Traverse City schools.

Wooden was most recently superintendent of Beaverton Schools near Midland, but she also worked in East Jordan and Owosso and once taught English at Alpena Community College.

She was the only applicant for the position after a second person dropped out before being interviewed by the school board, but she seems like a solid fit for the position. Her background is impressive, she obviously cares about education and families, and her ties to the area will be a plus.

She’ll need all of that as her short term at APS — she’s expected to start shortly before VanWagoner leaves and stay through the start of next school year, around mid-September — will be filled with exceptionally consequential decisions.

She’ll have to figure out how to start the 2020-21 school year (a daunting task under normal circumstances) while the world still battles a global pandemic that has killed thousands of Michiganders. How do you bring students back to class safely, to make sure the virus doesn’t spread among the students and staff?

She’ll have to start spending the $33.9 million in bonds voters approved for infrastructure improvements throughout the district.

Economic shutdowns meant to slow the virus’ spread have drained state coffers of billions of dollars, which could mean sharp cuts for school districts. Many of those decisions will have to be made before she starts, but she’ll have to oversee the beginning of an austere era, and who knows what hammers might fall this summer.

Oh, and she’ll have three new principals to help get settled into their roles.

We wish her and the school board well, and we urge all of the Alpena schools community to lend a hand and have patience and understanding. It’s still time for us all to come together.



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