Schools Chief Finalist Coolican in Town

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The man who could be Lansing's next superintendent, Jim Coolican, toured schools, met with principals and answered questions from students Thursday.

The Lansing Board of Education has praised Coolican for his plan to spend less time in the office and more time in schools and in the community.

'You can manage the district from your office, but you can't lead the district from your office," he said in an interview Thursday.

But some on the board have questioned whether the recent Gig Harbor, Wash. superintendent could lead a diverse, urban district like Lansing.

Coolican points out his work as an assistant superintendent for Washington state.

"We dealt with all the districts: Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane. So I think I have those experiences," he said.

Poverty is the key hurdle for urban districts, Coolican says. It's something he'd combat by funneling more money to the poorest schools.

Coolican says reading by the third grade would be a key priority. If kids can't read by then, he says, they can't learn much of anything else.

The retired Marine Corps colonel would also focus on staff training.

"No matter how good each of us is, and I consider myself a good superintendent, I know that the next year I have to be better," he said.

Coolican is the second of two finalists to meet with the board and the community. So what's next in the superintendent search process?

"We do need to make a decision whether to go to zero, one or two site visits," board member Melanie Rogers said Thursday.

The board could head to Gig Harbor, where Coolican most recently worked, or to Mount Clemens, where finalist T.C. Wallace is the superintendent, all to help decide which candidate would best lead the district.

Board members expect the job to be offered sometime in January.