By David Fleet
-On Monday night the school board voted 7-0 to extend a contract to Ryan Relken as the district’s new superintendent effective June 30.
Relken had stepped in as superintendent in January after the board voted 7-0 to promote him from Oaktree Elementary School principal to interim superintendent. The board indicated at the time they would start a search process for a new superintendent. However, the board opted to stay within the district.
The change came after the school board accepted a paid leave of absence, effective immediately, for Michelle Imbrunone, district superintendent. According to a statement issued by the board, Imbrunone’s request was due to a significant family medical situation and she would be unable to fulfill the board’s residency requirement for the 2017-18 school year. In addition, she will resign effective June 30 when her contract with the district expires.
Terms of Relken’s contract were still in negotiations.
“I’m really pleased we are taking this action tonight,” said David Cramer, trustee.
“Ryan has demonstrated an incredible ability to do what’s right for the kids—to put kids first. This district can go no place but up. There are no limits. He will take all the limits off we put on ourselves.”
A Port Huron native, Relken, 41, earned a master’s degree in educational leadership at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania; master of education (M.Ed.), elementary education and teaching at Northern Arizona University; and bachelor of arts (B.A.), elementary education and teaching at Arizona State University.
“Ryan’s going to be the fourth superintendent in my short time on the board,” said Chip Shultz, trustee. “What I saw in Ryan a couple of months ago when I sat in a meeting that I had not seen since Scott Bogner was here is somebody that wants our kids to be the best. That’s what Ryan really wants—everything about the kids—kids, kids, kids. He has kids in this district, too—if his kids succeed then all the kids succeed. I’m looking forward to the next five-and-a-half years. I say five- and-a-half-years because that would be a long-running superintendent. I’m looking forward to it.”
In May 2014 the school board hired Relken as principal of Oaktree Elementary School. The open position was created by the resignation of Oaktree Principal Michael Ellis in December 2013.
“I left Michigan at the age of 23 for a job in professional hockey,” he said. “I can’t skate, but what I really wanted to do is hockey play-by-play. I did get a job offer to call games for the Tupelo Mississippi T-Rex of the western professional hockey league. That lasted about a year and I very quickly found myself at Arizona State (University) working to become a teacher. I had the privilege of being a fourth and a fifth grade teacher with Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona from 2004-2010.”
In 2010 Relken and his family moved to Newport, Ore. where he became principal at Sam Case Primary School. The kindergarten through third grade school had an enrollment of about 600 students. Ryan’s wife, Meredith, is a Michigan State University graduate and school speech pathologist in Genesee County. The couple have been married since 2002 and have three children, Brendan, 11, Genevieve, 8, and Dylan, 6. All attend the Goodrich School District.