HOLLAND, MI – The Holland Board of Education has selected Shanie Keelean to serve as the district’s next superintendent.
Keelean is currently associate superintendent of school leadership and development at Waukegan Community Unit School District #60 in Illinois.
The hire is pending contract negotiations, but the new superintendent is scheduled to replace retiring superintendent Brian Davis on July 1. Holland had 3,079 enrolled students during the 2020-21 this school year.
The school board voted 6-1 to enter into contract negotiations with Keelean during a June 3 special board meeting. Keelean was one of two finalists who were interviewed and participated in a community town hall to lead the district. She beat out Michael Pascoe, assistant superintendent of instruction at Portage Public Schools, for the job.
Six board members voted in favor of selecting Keelean, and trustee Liz Colburn abstained from the vote. Colburn said she felt both finalists were qualified, but she wasn’t sure if either candidate was right for Holland Public Schools and she wanted to call back more candidates.
A total of seven candidates were interviewed by the board. Twenty-one people applied for the position, said Jay Bennett, assistant director of search services with the Michigan Association of School Boards.
During the June 3 meeting, board members discussed their impressions of Keelean and Pascoe based on interviews with references from the districts they currently work in. Several board members noted that Keelean’s biggest strength was being data driven.
“I sense from a lot of different comments made that she’s a quick study, she jumps right into research and I think she’s a quick learner in diversity equity and inclusion,” said school board president Phil Meyer.
Meyer characterized Keelean as “aggressively self-confident,” and thoughtful in how she wants to engage in the community.
Keelean was the only candidate to submit a 100-day plan to the board, trustee Mark Woltman said. He noted that Keelean wanted to build a better community for teachers by not just focusing on pay, but on morale.
“Being the son of a longterm HPS teacher, I think teacher morale and staff morale is one of the most important things here,” Woltman said.
The board also discussed comments they received from the community during a public town hall meeting with the finalists. Woltman read several comments from parents that said Keelean would bring change, and that she sees diversity as a strength and is open to thinking outside of the box.
Several board members said they felt the two candidates were tied closely together, calling the vote an “incredibly difficult decision.” Trustees Mike McKay and Colburn shared their initial preferences for Pascoe, but both ended up voting in favor of Keelean.
Keelean has been associate superintendent of school leadership and development for Waukegan schools for three years. Prior to that, she was a principal in the district for one year.
Keelean has previously served as a principal, assistant principal and teacher in districts in Chicago and New York, according to LinkedIn.
She earned a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology from Grand Valley State University, master’s degrees in elementary education and curriculum and instruction from Loyola, and a master’s in educational leadership from National Louis University.
The new superintendent will officially take over on July 1, after Davis retires at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Davis is the third longest-serving superintendent in the district’s 164-year history after having served the district for 21 years.
More on MLive:
Holland superintendent retiring this summer after pandemic year of many changes
Seven candidates to interview for Holland Public Schools superintendent
Holland Public Schools narrows superintendent search to 2 finalists