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Published: Monday, 3/18/2013

Bedford’s new chief up for challenge

School superintendent feels he can move district forward

Kleinhans Kleinhans

TEMPERANCE — Mark Kleinhans says he knows he’s in for a challenge in moving to the Bedford Public Schools as superintendent, but he’s confident he'll be equal to it.

Even though the district’s financial woes have been a reigning preoccupation in recent years, he predicts they will prove to be a passing phase from which the Bedford schools will emerge as strong as ever. The Bedford system is so richly endowed with good staff, a supportive community, and strong school board that he believes he'll have what he needs to guide it through the current hard times.

“The district is known for strong academics and quality extracurricular programs,” he said. “Right now, it is going through a rough time. But an opportunity will come to turn things around. It’s a process; it’s not going to happen overnight. That’s where the challenge is. The district needs someone to come in and move it forward, and I think I’m the person to do that.”

The board of education, he said, has its eyes on the right target as it copes with the district’s unstable finances. “They certainly are making very tough decisions. But it was very clear to me during the interview process that they are focused on continuous improvement and want the best for students, staff, and community. It will be an honor to serve with such a dedicated board.”

The board hired Mr. Kleinhans last week in a unanimous vote. The offer is contingent on the successful negotiation of a compensation package. His salary is expected to be in the low $120,000 range.

He will replace Ted Magrum, who retired in September. Jon White, who had a long career with the Bedford Schools, came out of retirement to serve as interim superintendent for the current academic year.

Mr. Kleinhans, 51, has been superintendent of Montrose Community Schools in Michigan’s Genesee County since 2002. Before that, he was Montrose’s middle school principal for 10 years.

The Montrose district, with an enrollment of 1,400, is much smaller than Bedford, which has a student body of almost 4,800. Financially, Montrose is not in a deficit position like Bedford, but, like Bedford, it suffers from declining enrollment and shrinking state funding and has done some painful belt-tightening, including laying off teachers.

In 2011, Mr. Kleinhans explained, Montrose voters approved a $14.6 million bond issue for permanent improvements. Money from that is being used for extensive energy efficiency upgrades. The savings realized from spending less on heating and lighting have benefited the school district’s operating budget and will continue to do so.

Mr. Kleinhans graduated from Breckenridge High School in Michigan and Central Michigan University. He and his wife, Marcene, have two children, daughter, Koh Leigh, 21, and son, Kyle, 18.

Mrs. Kleinhans works in Toledo as a contract software analyst for ProMedica, specializing in online medical records. Because she spends most of her work week in Toledo, Mr. Kleinhans said he's delighted he’ll be able to see her every day once his family has relocated to Bedford Township.

Mr. Kleinhans and the school board haven’t decided on a start date for him. Once onboard, he said, his first objective will be to get a sense of the Bedford Township culture and what the citizens are thinking.

By December, he said, “I’ll be ready to start some strategic planning and use it as a tool to move forward. I intend to get input from all the different groups in the school district.”

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