by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Early in December, the Byron Board of Education moved to enter into a contractual agreement with Bob Cassiday, recently of Springport Public Schools, as the new superintendent. The decision to offer Cassiday the superintendent position was made during the Thursday, Dec. 3 special board meeting after the board had gone through a search process starting with a pool of 22 applicants. The final two applicants by the first of December included Cassiday and Derrick Bushon of Swartz Creek Schools.
A motion was made to employ Cassiday as the Superintendent of Byron Schools “pending board approval of a contractual agreement” and to allow the president of the board to negotiate the contract. The board voted 6 to 1 in favor of Cassiday.
A contract review was set for mid-November – and an agreement was reached, Byron Area Schools started of 2021 with a new superintendent under Bob Cassiday.
The search for a new superintendent began in August after longtime Byron Area Schools Superintendent Tricia Murphy-Alderman announced she was retiring. Murphy-Alderman had been with the school district for nine years and remained in the position until December 31.
After her August announcement, Murphy-Alderman shared she wanted to allow the board plenty of time to find a replacement by allowing them five months prior to her official retirement. Her commitment for education and to the Byron Area School District never waned.
In a phone conversation with Bob Cassiday on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 6, it became evident he shares a similar commitment to education. Cassiday has an interestingly diverse background that should play well into his new position. He has three degrees, two from Saginaw Valley and another from Grand Valley.
Cassiday graduated from Birch Run Area Schools. Prior to college, he worked in a number of jobs including being employed as a garbage truck driver – a job he shared was one of his favorite positions. While working in the restaurant field, a friend had suggested the garbage employment opportunity, which allowed him to work toward his CDL to become a truck driver. Eventually however, while working in construction, Cassiday suffered an injury – a shattered kneecap, which he said was actually the best thing that’s ever happened to him, minus marriage and kids. A lengthy rehab process pointed out to him he was not going to be able to return to construction and found him contemplating a different career transition. At one point, after taking some employment related tests, he was told he should be a physician or a teacher. With a wife and kids, looking at a four-year college process for teaching seemed the better course of action. So, for Cassiday, teaching is what he pursued.
Following college, Cassiday had the goal of working as an elementary teacher in Bridgeport, which he did for seven years, teaching a variety of grade levels and quickly learning it wasn’t reasonable to “rationalize with kindergartners and 1st-graders,” he shared lightheartedly. While in Bridgeport, he was inspired helping the principal and concluded he liked the idea of working “with a whole range of people in problem solving.”
Cassiday then became the principal at the two elementary schools in Freemont, working in that district for 11 years and continuing his education when he decided he truly wanted to become a superintendent, leading him to a 3-year position as superintendent in Springport.
“It’s so important to work with your hands, as well as your brain,” Cassiday shared about both his own life and his educational philosophy. He discussed the significance of his early classes in automotives, drafting and architecture, expressing he thinks schools need to “turn out highly skilled people that can design, build and fix things.”
Cassiday also shared he has a blended family – both he and his wife were married prior and brought children into the marriage, followed by another child they had together. He was also raised in a blended family, and has a rooted understanding of how substance abuse within any family can be damaging to any child seeking both education and acceptance. All of these factors offer him insight in handling the numerous ins-and-outs of being a superintendent in contemporary times.
“I am always cognizant there is a story behind every person,” he said. “I have said that I don’t know anybody who comes into work on any given day and thinks, ‘I’m going to do my very worse today.’ Sometimes things get in the way and they need some help.” This life philosophy on helping others is a quality he worked hard to teach his own children.
Currently, Cassiday is looking for a home in the Byron area or nearby. Going forward as superintendent, he hopes to assist in increasing enrollment, possibly by reintroducing some programs that have been eliminated in previous years.
“I am just looking forward to meeting people, working with the school and the community and keeping the Byron Eagles soaring high!” Cassiday stated. “I think this is an exciting time to be an educator with education at the forefront of a paradigm shift. It’s all changing.” Recognizing that pandemic educational processes are in a period of evolution, Cassiday understands that going forward, students will be learning through multiple and ever-changing venues that are wildly different from previous generations.
Byron Area Schools will be holding an organizational meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 11 for individuals interested in meeting Cassiday. The meetings are also available virtually.