Clawson Public Schools superintendent will retire in August

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published January 24, 2022




CLAWSON — In a sooner-than-anticipated move, Clawson Public Schools Superintendent Tim Wilson, 58, announced his intention to retire as of Aug. 12 from the role that he has held for the past four years at the Jan. 17 school board meeting.

Wilson, who initially said he intended to be with the district for 10 years, said his decision to retire was precipitated by family matters in his life; namely, that many close family members have moved or will soon move to Florida.

In his letter to the school board stating his intentions to retire in seven months, Wilson said he greatly enjoyed his time as a superintendent, working with the board and accomplishing much for the district’s students, staff and community, with more in the works.

“I look forward to watching the great things that will continue to occur in this outstanding district. Over the next seven months, I will continue to serve and work hard for this district,” Wilson said. “I will also work hard to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.”

He said the main reason he pursued his career in Clawson was due to family, and it is once again family that is the impetus for his departure.

“My wife is there now. We have a second home there,” he said. “She is in sunny Florida, and I would like to join her. But this wasn’t a part of my initial plan. I had hoped to stay here longer. I did say 10 years, and I apologize for that — that it didn’t work out.”

Wilson said he was proud of changes that the school district made during his tenure, that he will be leaving the district with the goal of its betterment achieved and that he feels he is leaving at the best time.

“This is a good time for transition because we’ve done a lot of work that has led up to what needs to be done, and in moving forward, we’re moving into the next phase of building,” he said. “I think now would be the perfect time for a change, if it’s going to happen, rather than a couple years down the road.”

Members of the school board expressed remorse for the departure, understanding of the reason and gratitude for the work Wilson performed.

“While it’s been a rough four years, I want to thank you because I’ve been in this district for many years, and what you have accomplished in four years is more than I’ve ever seen anyone accomplish, so thank you for coming in and helping us right the ship,” said board President Kimberley Carlesimo. “I think you have definitely set the next person up for much easier sailing than what was dealt to you when you came in.”

Treasurer Ted Verner said the past four years have felt like eight, given the mental and physical tolls on the body, so he understood Wilson’s decision.

“I know you’re very close to your family,” Verner said. “You’ll be dearly missed, but we just have to get the right person to step into your role. We’re still months away, but we wish you the best of luck.”

During the Jan. 17 meeting, the board ultimately decided to set the discussion of the process and selection of a new superintendent and the transition timeline for its next workshop at 7 p.m. Feb. 7.

Wilson recommended that the board appoint Billy Shellenbarger, the district’s middle school and high school principal, for the position of superintendent after an interview process.

“Billy has expressed some interest in becoming a superintendent, and I think he would be outstanding at the position,” he said. “Part of this position is you need community trust, you need board trust, and that takes some time.”

He said that whomever the board selects to lead the district would have to make a lot of “important decisions that have to be made quickly.” He added that “he has let him into the process more, so he is aware.”

“I’ve been in education about 30 years and (Shellenbarger is) one of the best administrators I’ve ever worked with,” Wilson said. “He knows when to do things on his own and he knows when to look for help. … You got to be able to make the tough calls, and I think he could do that.”

School board members weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the recommendation. The main concern was the need for a formal interview process, and other concerns including the ability to open the role to interested parties in the district, trust, institutional knowledge and experience.

“You never know what you’re going to get (with an executive search). We got lucky last time,” Carlesimo said. “The whole district is literally changing.”

Vice President Michael Frink said the district was in a vastly different position, which was why the board opted to conduct an executive search to hire Wilson.

“We felt very strongly as a board that we really needed somebody fresh from outside of the district without the history, without the context and everything. We needed somebody completely fresh to step in,” he said. “We’re in a much better position, thanks to Tim (Wilson).”

Frink said he looks forward to figuring out the process the board chooses to move forward in the selection of a future superintendent. This time, because of the district’s executive search process, he said the district has a document it created “saying exactly what we want out of a superintendent.”

“It may need some tweaking now because the district’s changed, but as a starting point, it would give us a better idea of where and how we want to make our next steps forward,” he said. “We have a bit of time.”

He said he would like to see a replacement working with Wilson as Wilson transitions out in order to build up the trust, comfort level and understanding of the mechanics of the district.

“I think we all need to think about what we think individually the best process will be to determine this, so (we can make progress at our February workshop),” Frink said.

Verner said he leaned toward a “hybrid procedure” instead of an executive search.

“I don’t want the community to ever feel like we have gone into a backdoor deal,” Carlesimo said. “We have worked with Billy, so we’re all singing his accolades 100%. He’s definitely put in the work. There’s options of opening it to the district first or maybe somebody else wants to apply or they just want the experience of applying for that type of position.”

Trustee Thomas Reed said school districts regularly look internally before seeking an external candidate in order to “give you a chance to give your own people a chance at growth and development.”

“We had some great luck with administrators coming up through the district who were former teachers,” Reed said. “I think that’s something we really need to give weight to, is give the people who are here that opportunity to interview and do that.”

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