Cordes named as new KND and Bear Lake superintendent

Marlen Cordes has been named as the new Bear Lake and Kaleva Norman Dickson superintendent. He will be taking over for retiring superintendent Mike Matesich on July 1.

BRETHREN — A familiar face will be filling the superintendent’s offices at Bear Lake and Kaleva Norman Dickson schools next fall after the two boards of education jointly offered the job of dual superintendent to Brethren Schools principal Marlen Cordes this week.

Cordes was one of 23 candidates who applied to replace retiring superintendent Mike Matesich. The Brethren principal was the only candidate the two boards interviewed for the position and he was questioned at a joint meeting this week at the Brethren Schools media center. Following that interview process, the boards went into closed session to discuss the matter and then offered the position to Cordes.

When he officially takes over the superintendent position on July 1, he will become the third superintendent to serve in the dual capacity since they started the joint effort in 1999. Greg Webster served as superintendent for nine of those years and Matesich for the last five.

“I am real excited that the boards of education have given me an opportunity to keep working with the good people at KND and now I can start working with the Laker family at Bear Lake as well,” said Cordes.

The new superintendent said he is looking forward over the next several months to becoming better acquainted with everyone in the Bear Lake district, so it is a smooth transition when Matesich retires in June.

“Obviously, I feel very comfortable with the KND end of it and Mr. Matesich has been very good about keeping me in the loop with things going on in Bear Lake,” said Cordes. “I know a lot of the staff over there and know (Bear Lake principal) Marci (Augenstein), but I still have a lot to learn yet about that district and it should be easy to work with those individuals.”

Cordes said one of the major benefits he will have is being in this area gives him the opportunity to get up to speed on things for both districts. That wouldn’t have been the case for someone who may have been coming in from another area on July 1.

“I don’t think too many people that are going to be in a superintendent’s position are going to have the sort of on-the-job training for six months or so, and that is a huge advantage for me,” said Cordes. “I’m excited to work with Mr. Matesich on it the next several months. I will get his guidance with the training wheels on and then the first of July we will take the training wheels off.”

Another aspect of being in house is Cordes will get an inside view of the 2013-14 budget process for both school districts.

“I will be able to work with Mr. Matesich, the board, and (Manistee Business Cooperative director of finance) Kris (Mauntler) at the business office and have some input on it,” said Cordes. “So next year when we get going I will obviously have a much better handle on it. It is nice to know all those things, but I am not so naive to think I will know it all. I am coming in with my eyes wide open.”

Cordes said that he plans to tap into Matesich’s knowledge over the next several months, but knows he has much to learn about the entire process.

“It is a big learning curve and I am happy the board gave me this opportunity and hired me at this point so I can work with Mr. Matesich and that is going to be a huge advantage,” said Cordes.

Something else he said will be an ongoing challenge is the constant changes that keep coming at him from the state level.

“There are changes coming right now out there with the evaluation tool and obviously the budgets are big along with the fact that every year we never know what Lansing is going to do,” said Cordes.

The Brethren principal has been employed with the Kaleva Norman School District for the past 22 years. He is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a major in English and a minor in history. He received his masters degree in secondary administration in 1998.

His first experience in administration was when he temporarily filled in for former Brethren High School principal Wayne Bernier. Cordes was in that position for a semester and then became assistant principal. The following school year he took over as the KND athletic director.

When an opening for the principal position at the Wellston Elementary School opened up, the board called upon Cordes to fill that opening. It was a position he held for the next four years until the retirement of Bernier that moved him over to the Brethren Middle/High School principal position.

After serving three years in that position, cutbacks came to the district two years ago resulting in the elimination of an administrator. Board of education members moved Cordes into the K-12 principal at that time.

The Bear Lake board of education said the two boards were in consensus that Cordes was the right person for the job. Board president Charles Brooks said they are looking forward to working with the new superintendent.

“I think our board is really excited about offering the position to Marlen,” said Brooks. “We are sad to see Mike retire, but Marlen looks very qualified and interviewed well and we’re excited to have found a replacement for Mike. We looked at exterior candidates as well and Marlen compared very well with what was out there on the market. It is really a testament to his accomplishments at KND.”

Brooks said he feels Cordes’ knowledge of the communities will be a plus.

“Knowing the communities is always a plus for a new superintendent,” said Brooks. “That is a big plus for Marlen with his many years of experience at KND that will prove immensely beneficial for both districts. It just makes that transformation so much easier that he is already here and can work on those budgets. Both schools will benefit a lot from it.”

The Bear Lake board president said he feels the cooperative venture still works well for both districts.

“Sure we were able to take a lot of the money we saved and put it back into the classroom,” said Brooks.

He added that they now negotiate a contract with Cordes and the board will have to approve it in the upcoming weeks.

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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