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Interim Superintendent Gary Start
Linda Mah
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Interim Superintendent Gary Start

Start Has Long History with KPS

Longtime Kalamazoo Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Gary Start was named Interim Superintendent of the school district in June.

He was appointed interim by the KPS Board of Education after Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice was named Michigan State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He will serve as interim while the board conducts the search for a new superintendent.

Start points out that he’s had a long connection to Kalamazoo. During a childhood that was filled with numerous moves, he attended Roosevelt Elementary School and Northeastern Junior High School for grades 6, 7 and 9. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western Michigan University.

And, he said, “My father-in-law graduated from old Central. My wife graduated from new Central. Both of my sons graduated from Central and my grandson is entering Central this year.”

Start has been the top business official for Kalamazoo Public Schools since 1983. He joined KPS as the assistant director of business and finance and served in a number of roles before being named deputy superintendent for business, communications, and operations in 1997.

As deputy superintendent his responsibilities include overseeing finance, communications, technology, transportation, food service, and facilities management.

When Start took the interim superintendent role, he made it clear that he had no interest in seeking the superintendency on a permanent basis.

“I enjoy my job as deputy superintendent. That’s how I want to finish my career.” His work as deputy superintendent has been made easier, he said, by the generosity of The Kalamazoo Promise donors, which has made a tremendous difference in what the district can provide for students.

“Prior to The Promise we had declining enrollment consistent with most other urban districts in the state,” Start said.

“Since our funding amount we receive from the state is based on the number of pupils we had, we faced a consistent pattern of budget cuts. “Budget cuts mean you begin dismantling important things for kids. You can’t improve while you’re dismantling a district.”

Since The Promise the district has grown by 25 percent, which has provided substantial improvement to the district’s financial stability.

“That financial stability has meant we’ve had more stability in our boards, our administration, and our staff, and that has lead to significant improvements in what we can offer our students,” he said.

During his career, Start has led the development and presentation of eight bond issues for passage by district voters. In the last two years, Start has helped to restructure and make more equitable the county’s special education funding formula. In 2018, he was an integral voice in the district’s teacher contract negotiations, which significantly boosted the entry-level salary for teachers.

Start volunteers as a mentor at Phoenix High School. He has served on the City of Kalamazoo 2015 Blue Ribbon Revue Panel and on the boards of the Local Development Finance Authority and the Community Promise Federal Credit Union.

At the state level, Start was a founding board member of the Middle Cities Risk Management Trust and has been a long-time member of the Michigan School Business Officials and the Association of School Business Officials International. In 2019, he received the MSBO Distinguished Service Award.

“My goal over the next year is to provide stability and give the board the opportunity to recruit and hire a high quality superintendent,” Start said. “It’s important for me that we have a new superintendent who can continue the upward trajectory of achievement that we’ve seen over the past few years.”

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