Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 15, 2014

Negotiations begin for Suttons Bay superintendent

TRAVERSE CITY — Suttons Bay Public Schools soon will have a new superintendent. All that’s left to do is negotiate a contract between the district and school board members’ top pick.

Board members unanimously voted Tuesday to offer the superintendent position to Chris Nelson, director of technology and operations at Harbor Springs Public Schools. Nelson will replace Michael Murray, who is retiring at the end of the school year after more than seven years as the district’s top administrator.

Board members held a second round of interviews with Nelson and Ronald “Jake” Huffman, superintendent of Bath Community Schools, before making their final decision.

Board President David Buffum said he believes Nelson will help strengthen the district and move it forward.

“We thought he had the energy, the strength in the online arena and also the ability to get different groups to collaborate to build a stronger school,” Buffum said.

Nelson worked for Harbor Springs Public Schools since 2010. He previously worked as the chief information officer for Detroit Public Schools and as director of technology for East Jordan Public Schools before that.

Tom White, a consultant with the Michigan Association of School Boards, was hired to help in the selection process and said interviews revealed two qualified but very different candidates. Nelson does not have previous superintendent experience, but White said he believes school board members made the right choice.

“He’s a nontraditional candidate, and they’re a school that’s looking to do great things and to be a bit out of the box. I think they hired the right person for it,” White said.

Board members solicited and received feedback from community members who attended the candidate interviews, something Nelson said shows a community that’s invested in education.

Nelson said he and his family are “all in,” and look forward to becoming part of Suttons Bay and the school district.

“At the end of the day it’s all about the success of students in the classroom and making decisions as a district that are going to directly benefit every student in every classroom,” he said.

White said board members will negotiate a contract with a salary range of $100,000 to $130,000. Buffum said he hopes Nelson’s contract will be finalized in the next two weeks.

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