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Retiring Bedford superintendent reflects on his tenure

Business acumen aided district in tough times


Ted Magrum, whose last day is to be Sept. 28, says now is a good time to leave because the system's financial situation has stabilized. A new teacher contract is in place as is a deficit-elimination plan.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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TEMPERANCE -- Ted Magrum has been with the Bedford Public Schools for close to a dozen years, and nine of them have been, to say the least, challenging.

That's because they have involved cuts in programs and personnel as the strapped district struggled against headwinds that included shrinking enrollment and declining state funding. The district has lost 10 percent of its enrollment in the last eight years, and last year's state support was about what it was in the 2005-06 year.

Mr. Magrum is retiring this month after almost three years as superintendent. His last day is Sept. 28, and his last school board meeting will be Sept. 27.

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at which it is expected to approve a contract making Jon White interim superintendent for the 2012-13 year. Mr. White, a former superintendent whom Mr. Magrum worked under, is a well-known figure in the district. The plan is to have a new, permanent superintendent onboard by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Mr. Magrum, 60, said his decision to retire was not sudden.

"It's something I've been debating," he said. "I feel pretty good about leaving the district right now."

He and his wife, Julie, sold their Temperance home after having it on the market for five months and will be moving to the western suburbs of Chicago, where they'll be close to a son who lives there. He plans to find a job, in education or with a nonprofit organization and already has prospects in sight.

This is a good time to leave, Mr. Magrum said, because the school system's situation has stabilized considerably. A new, concessionary contract has been signed with the teachers, enrollment looks somewhat better than expected, and the district's deficit elimination plan has been accepted by the Michigan Department of Education.

The deficit elimination plan, which the state required, puts the district on the path to a balanced budget by the end of the 2014-15 year. Following it will mean more cuts, including perhaps the elimination of high school busing and the closing of another school building. The board has closed Smith Road Elementary and laid off 16 teachers there.

Mr. Magrum described himself as a nontraditional superintendent because he came from the business world.

He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's in business administration and worked for a succession of companies before joining the Bedford schools as assistant superintendent for finance and operations. He also holds a PhD in education. He graduated from Anthony Wayne High School and grew up in Neapolis and Paris, Texas. "Obviously, instruction is not my strength," he said, "But I think my background in accounting and finance are an advantage in these kinds of times."

Board Vice President Tim Brakel said it was this background that set him apart for the job.

"That was one of the reasons why he was selected. He had all of the credentials of the other candidates, and his background in finance was cited by several board members as putting him on top of the game for the challenges we faced," he explained.

During Mr. Magrum's tenure as superintendent, the board approved some welcome revenue-raising agreements such as selling naming rights and advertising at Bedford Community Stadium, leasing space at the Smith Road Elementary Building, and closing the district's child-care operation and signing a lease/purchase agreement for it with a private company.

Mr. Magrum does acknowledge a professional regret: that he wasn't able to spend more time visiting classrooms. "There's nothing like going to a kindergarten and seeing the children there," he said.

He is proud that through the cost cutting and stresses of budget the district's ACT and MEAP scores have remained above state averages.

"It's still a great school system," he said. "I'll go out with my head held high."

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