Role reversal – son bosses dad

By Rosemary Horvath

Steve Newkirk has a list of 120 qualified substitute teachers to draw from with one sub usually near the top.
The Clare Middle School principal of nine years says he values the 40 years of experience a particular substitute teacher has as retired educator and former administrator, who happens to be his dad, Bill Newkirk.

The two have been at the same school before.
Steve graduated from Clare High School in 1990, the same time Bill was Clare High School principal.

“There were times when it was difficult,” having your father as principal, Steve admitted. “It’s never easy when your dad has to discipline someone who is a friend you see in class,” or when the principal disciplines his son.

But as a student, Steve always felt he could talk to Bill.
Today, though Steve is technically Bill’s boss, he doesn’t have qualms talking to Bill on a professional level.
“I sometimes confer with him for guidance, and I’ve tried to play hardball with him sometimes,” Steve said.

And now Steve’s children are at the middle school where he is principal.

Steve taught at Michigan Center and Beal City before going to the administrative level, first in Harrison.

Bill’s first teaching job was White Cloud, in 1972, teaching junior high science and English. He and wife Paula grew up in Scottville. Both Bill’s parents were teachers and his three siblings are career educators as are some of their children. Two of Bill’s siblings are married to teachers. Bill’s daughter teaches at Sanford-Meridian.

“My brother jokingly says I went over to the dark side when I got into administration,” Bill said. Only he and Steve are administrators in the family.

Bill retired July 2007 as superintendent of Meridian Public Schools in Sanford. He changed course and entered public administration, and was hired as Clare County administrator.
“I left the county October 2010 and started subbing that same month in Clare,” Bill said.

Clare Public Schools contracts with the Clare-Gladwin ISD for screening and registering potential substitute teachers.
“We have a good group and a long list of retired teachers,” Steve said, adding that he and some teachers work from their own list.

“Kids say ‘I had your dad as a teacher,’ and think it’s pretty funny. This gives me a chance to see him a little bit more. I’m really proud of him.”

While it may first appear unusual to find two generations at the same school, it isn’t for the Clare district.

Clare coach-teacher Kelly Luplow had his three children graduate from Clare High School, where his wife is a teacher. His daughter Reyna coaches 7th grade girls’ basketball and Kelly coaches 8th grade boys’ basketball.

Bill hired Luplow at the middle school, and he hired Chris Fedewa and several other teachers he sees either at the middle school or high school.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree another way. Like his father, Steve is involved with North Central Accreditation and the Michigan High School Athletic Association
Bill had been athletic director and coached baseball, basketball and football. The MHSAA awarded him with special recognition in 2008.

Both Bill and Steve remarked individually a preference for interacting with students in the classroom.

“As an administrator I thought I’d still be able to do that,” Steve said, but he was surprisingly disappointed. The volume of paperwork and other responsibilities take up most of an administrator’s time.

“State guidelines and teacher evaluations limit the time with students,” Steve said. “Our produce is the student. I visit with 220 kids at lunch and hang out with them. I want to see how their day is going.”

Steve also runs the scoreboard at basketball games and tries to make as many school events as he can, he said.
Steve was interviewed on what was a snow day for students. He was working in the office completing a state report. “There is a lot of data and documentation involved in running a school,” he said.

The volume of paperwork surprises Bill.
He must be getting old, he said, because he doesn’t understand any purpose in some of the requirements.

What hasn’t changed is Bill’s enthusiasm for teaching.
“I do it because I enjoy it. I still enjoy it,” he said. “Middle school is a difficult age group but I love the middle school/junior high level.”

Bill recognizes similarities and differences between the pre-teens he sees today compared to students he worked with 30 years ago. “They are growing into adulthood. I like assisting with their change,” Bill said.

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