Novi school board selects district’s next superintendent

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published July 14, 2022




NOVI — After a lengthy interview process, the Novi Community School District Board of Education voted unanimously to select Benjamin Mainka as its next superintendent during a meeting June 30.

Mainka will replace Steve Matthews, who resigned to become superintendent for the Rockford School District. Mainka was one of three finalists the board considered. The other two candidates were John Bernia, chief academic officer for Warren Consolidated Schools, and Carol Diglio, assistant superintendent of human resources and Title IX coordinator for Oak Park School District. 

“This was a really, really tough decision. We have three outstanding candidates,” said Mary Ann Roney, board trustee. “We have the scores one through five. This gentleman to me was a five. ... He just brings this energy that I think is just going to push us forward and do wonderful things for Novi.”

Mainka comes to the district from Swartz Creek Community Schools, where he has served as superintendent since 2016. He served as the associate director of the Michigan Association of  Secondary School Principals from 2015 to 2016. He served as a high school principal for Hartland Consolidated Schools from 2012 to 2015 and as junior high school principal for Fowlerville Community Schools from 2010 to 2012. Prior to that, he served as the district’s assistant high school principal from 2008 to 2010. 

Mainka, who hails from Blissfield, holds a Master of Public Administration, educational administration from the University of Michigan’s Rackham School of Graduate Studies. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in education, secondary education, from Spring Arbor University. He also holds an administrator certificate in elementary and secondary school administration and central office, as well as a teaching certificate for science, biology and physical education for grades 6-12. He is anticipating completing his doctorate degree in industrial and organizational psychology from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 2024.

“Mr. Mainka has demonstrated that he is ready to lead Novi now and into the future,” said school board President Danielle Ruskin. “As a current superintendent, I believe Mr. Mainka has the skill set necessary to jump right in and begin collaborating. ... His communication skill set throughout this process, both in his interviews and in other ways, has shown he will be transparent and 100% vested in this community from day one. ... I believe that Mr. Mainka has the qualifications, the commitment, the desire and the energy to lead the team we have and those that will come on board in the future.”

“Before this board embarked down the search process, I was optimistic that we would have excellent candidates to choose from to be our next superintendent,” said Willy Mena, board trustee, noting the district leaders who left Novi recently for jobs in other districts. “Certainly, it has added a bit of stress and anxiety. While we didn’t all agree, this board did decide to go through a process that ultimately led to three fantastic candidates, all of whom bring different skills and experiences that can lead our district.” 

During the board meeting, board members presented their individual findings and stated their preferences for the next superintendent. Mainka won the support of six of the seven board members, with Mena choosing to back Bernia. Mena said he had narrowed it down to Bernia and Mainka but, in the end, went with his gut to back Bernia.

Following the statements from the board members, Mena said that as he was the lone wolf, he would like to make the motion to hire Mainka, which was backed by board Secretary Bobbie Murphy. The board then voted 7-0 to hire Mainka. 

“I will work tirelessly to build a great relationship with our new superintendent,” said Mena.

Following the vote, Ruskin made a public telephone call to Mainka to inform him of the board’s decision and congratulate him. 

“I am just so honored, and I’m a little choked up and just appreciative for the opportunity,” Mainka said to Ruskin upon learning that he had been selected to be the new superintendent. “I truly believe that Novi is the best school district in Michigan and beyond, and I’m just so honored to be a part of the community and a part of the team and just can’t wait to get started.”

Paul Cook, board vice president, said that Mainka stood out as being a “straight line candidate” that would be able to get the district to where he envisions it in the next five years. He said that he believes that, under Mainka, the district will grow dramatically within the next five to 10 years. 

“I share Mrs. Roney’s thought that (Mainka) is the right person for this district at this time,” said Murphy. “I am confident that he is going to do a great job.”

She cited Mainka’s experience as a superintendent bringing together a school district that had once had “a pretty divided board and a pretty divided district and not much sense of community between the city and the district.”

Ruskin said that contract negotiations would begin July 1 and that the board will be expediting the process. She said the board members hoped to have the negotiations completed by the board meeting on July 14. In the interim, the board voted to appoint the new assistant superintendent of academics, Michael Giromini, as interim superintendent, in order to comply with state regulations and maintain funding. 

Ruskin said she had discussed it with Giromini  prior to the vote and that he was willing to take on the responsibility for the district. She said that he was the only current administrator with the credentials to hold the position. Giromini will hold the position from July 1 until Mainka’s contract negotiation is complete and he is able to take over the position.