William Kearney (right) and Chikaming Principal Heidi Clark view a photo of the Corgi-Poo puppy slated to be a therapy dog in the district later this year.

THREE OAKS — River Valley Schools Superintendent William Kearney is retiring at the end of the current school year.

Kearney said he notified the Board of Education Dec. 30 (noting that his contract requires a 6-month notice and his last day will be June 30).

“When I first hired in in 2011 our plan was (for me) to retire last year, and that didn’t work out,” Kearney said.

“I’ll just miss the people — from the community, the students, the staff, the administrators and the board. It’s been good,” he stated.

“The students are great, very respectful. I think the relationships that the administration has with the teachers, and that the teachers have with the students, is really strong.”

Representatives of the MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards) was scheduled to conduct a pre-superintendent search workshop with the school board on Monday, Jan. 20

“I think the timing’s good,” Kearney noted. “We have a great, cohesive board that works well together and I think that’s important in hiring a new superintendent.”

Kearney said the board will soon select a search firm (MASB or other organizations).

“I know they want to get stakeholder input … staff, students, parents and community … before they get the posting out.”

Kearney said he is pretty organized and will leave plenty of background information for his successor.

“I remember my interview (before he was hired), I had the opportunity to ask the board questions, and one of the typical questions is ‘What’s the reason I should come here?’ And I remember JC German saying ‘We are RV.’

At first Kearney said he didn’t know exactly what that meant, but over the years he understood.

“There’s such pride.”

Kearney said was a teacher in the Cheboygan district before taking an administrative position in Oscoda (a high school with about 800 students).

He then interviewed for high school principal position at Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools about 45 minutes from Gaylord — and at first he thought that district thought was too small

“It was probably the best decision I’ve made.”

Kearney then had the opportunity to come to River Valley — another small district.

“The small district is great — very few kids fall through the cracks in a small district.

On Jan. 17, Kearney and administrators (Middle/High School Principal Pat Breen, Asisitant Principal/Athletic Director Ryan Portenga, Chikaming Elementary Principal Heidi Clark and Three Oaks Elementary Principal Patrick Zuccala) were in the middle/high school visiting classrooms

“Eight times a year we do instructional rounds, and we alternate between buildings,” he said. “So one month we’re in the middle/high school building, and then next month will be in the elementary buildings.”

The group is in each classroom about 10 minutes “seeing what the teacher does and what the students do.”

They then come back together and debrief afterwards.

“It’s just a way for everybody to monitor instruction,” Kearney said.

He said improvements have been great during his time at RV with QZAB loans,  sinking funds and grants from The Pokagon Fund really making a difference.

He said the district now has a counselor who works in both elementary buildings and a social worker for the entire district.

Kearney said having a principal in each elementary building also has been a key improvement.

“I think the staff are so appreciative of having a principal in the building all the time.”

Kearney plans to do more traveling within wife, Debi, while remaining in Three Oaks., noting that they recently bought an off-road teardrop trailer.

It may come in handy right after Labor Day.

“Everybody tells me you need to make yourself busy the first day of school (the following year) … because it will bother you,” he said.

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