Muskegon Superintendent Justin Jennings to leave district June 1, Board of Education announces

Justin Jennings

Muskegon Public Schools Superintendent Justin Jennings’ last day in the district will be Saturday, June 1, almost exactly two months before Jennings originally said he planned to leave for his new job in Ohio.

Board of Education members announced Jennings’ June 1 departure in a May 31 letter, which can be seen here.

“We understand how hard it must be for Mr. Jennings to continue his work here, while an important challenge awaits him in Ohio,” board members wrote. “So we have mutually agreed that Mr. Jennings will be leaving the district’s employment on June 1, 2019.”

Jennings, who became Muskegon Public Schools’ superintendent in January 2017, has accepted a position as CEO of the Youngstown City Schools District in Ohio.

“I think the job is the right fit; this is a job in which I’m doing some turnaround work I feel comfortable in,” Jennings said in a previous interview with the Muskegon Times.

In their May 31 letter, board members thanked Jennings for his work as superintendent.

“We want to thank Mr. Jennings for his service to Muskegon Public Schools and wish him the best in his new position,” they wrote.

The board is now searching for Jennings’ replacement. With Jennings gone, Muskegon Public Schools will be contracting with Muskegon Area Intermediate School District for “interim services,” according to board members.

Jennings’ departure and the search for a new superintendent comes before a public vote on an approximate $77 million schools bond in May 2020. It too comes at at time when the district hopes to bring students back to the district following years of declining enrollment and follows Jennings’ tumultuous tenure during which members of a divided Board of Education both backed the superintendent and called for his removal. Teachers and members of the public criticized Jennings and the district for plans to close schools in 2018, as well as for administrative pay increases.

While board members have said they hope to have a new superintendent by July, a group of area business leaders recently called on the group to instead appoint an interim superintendent to allow for a more intensive search for a permanent schools leader.

“That is an admirable and very ambitious goal,” the business leaders wrote in a letter read by Northern Machine Tool Co. co-owner Steve Olsen read at the Board of Education’s May 21 meeting. “We congratulate you on your decision to move quickly with this. However, it is almost the end of May, and  it may be optimistic to think that you will be able to find the quality of leader that you want quite so quickly. Bringing in an interim leader would assure the continuity that you will need in the event that the search takes longer than you are hoping.”

Jennings encouraged members of the public to get involved with the search for the next superintendent.

“This will be an opportunity for the community to have a voice,” Jennings said in the previous interview. “I hope they come in and voice their opinion on who the next superintendent will be, someone who will move the bond forward and would be supportive of our athletics and academics.”

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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