By Haley Jones
MASA Marketing & Digital Media Specialist
Craig Carmoney joined the Zoom meeting during a break from deer hunting.
The newly announced 2021 Michigan State Superintendent of the Year (SOY) was enjoying an afternoon in the woods, a much–deserved break after a year of challenges and few celebrations.
Carmoney, superintendent of Meridian Public Schools, led the district and community through the aftermath of the historic floods that hit Midland and the surrounding areas this spring after two local dams failed. Local photographer, Amy Grubaugh, captured the devastation in photos.
Carmoney opened school buildings to serve as shelters, mucked out businesses and family homes that were flooded, and set–up a donation center at an elementary school to get families the resources they needed. He also started a volunteer system headquartered at the elementary library to ensure that those who wanted to help could pitch in where it was needed, and school buses were used to transport volunteers across the region. He continues to be at the forefront of helping with flood recovery in the Sanford area.
“I was trying to keep spirits up and provide the right messaging and be that show of strength for people who needed that,” Carmoney said. “The resiliency I saw in our families was amazing.”
That show of strength and leadership is one of the many reasons why Carmoney was selected as the state’s next Superintendent of the Year.
MASA Executive Director Dr. Tina Kerr said Carmoney’s spirit, determination, and leadership have been a driving force in the education community for many years.
“Whether it’s embarking on new ways to educate students or supporting students and families through a pandemic and history-making flood, Craig is a leader for the ages,” she said.
Superintendent at Meridian since 2011, Carmoney has dedicated his career to ensuring that every child is given the opportunity and pathways to succeed in life, college, and careers in the 21st Century. Under his leadership, the first-year college completion rate at Meridian Public Schools has more than doubled to nearly 80 percent and its most recent graduation rate increased to more than 95 percent. Meridian students now earn more than 3,000 college credits per year – 30 times the amount of credits earned prior to Carmoney’s tenure.
Through the district’s partnership with Delta College, students are eligible to earn postsecondary degrees before they even have a high school diploma in hand. Two students recently received special recognition for earing their associates and high school diplomas at the end of their fourth year of high school by joining Meridian’s dual enrollment program early and taking spring/summer courses. Carmoney said the district has been able to support students in ways they did not before.
“Under his leadership, Meridian Public Schools has transformed from a relatively mundane district to one that offers innovative programming, strong academics, and opportunities for each student to flourish as they move toward college and career,” Midland attorney Angela Cole said in a letter of recommendation for Superintendent of the Year (SOY).
Carmoney grew up thinking about his career choices on a regular basis. His mother was a first-grade teacher, and many of the people who influenced him early on were educators and coaches. His own chance to coach and lead youth work during high school helped fuel his passion for working with children and education.
After graduating from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Science degree, he headed to Alpena to teach high school World and American History, then on to the Midland area to teach history at Bullock Creek Middle School. He earned a Master of Arts from Saginaw Valley State University in 2000 and served as the middle school principal and assistant superintendent for Bullock Creek Schools until 2011 when he was named superintendent of Meridian Public Schools – a district of about 1,400 students.
In addition to his work toward increased graduation rates and student access to dual enrollment and early college, Carmoney also encouraged the district’s use of Project-Based Learning for all student instruction.
Now, as Carmoney prepares to step into the role of Superintendent of the Year, he is in a unique position. Carmoney will be the first SOY to take on the role during a global pandemic, making goal setting a bit more challenging.
“What I thought my job was as the superintendent seems to be rewritten on a regular basis,” he said. “I’m just trying to get us through the crisis that keeps changing in front of us with COVID-19 and trying to find the right ways to communicate and support people.”
Carmoney serves as president of MASA Region 4 and will continue to lead its monthly meetings as members take the time to support and learn from each other. All of these challenges are brand new to educators, he said.
“If there is anything we have to keep in mind right now, it is to take care of yourself physically and mentally during these difficult times,” he said. “You owe it to your family, students, community, and yourself to do that.”