Akron-Fairgrove Schools’ new superintendent eases into role

Diane Foster, left, Superintendent of Akron Fairgrove Schools sits down with former superintendent Stephen Ley. Foster became superintendent effective Sept. 1 following Ley’s resignation on Aug. 31. (Photo by John Cook).
Diane Foster, left, Superintendent of Akron Fairgrove Schools sits down with former superintendent Stephen Ley. Foster became superintendent effective Sept. 1 following Ley’s resignation on Aug. 31. (Photo by John Cook).

Akron-Fairgrove Schools has a new superintendent – one who has served the district for many years.

As of Sept. 1, Diane Foster became superintendent of Akron-Fairgrove Schools, which some staff and faculty considered to be a smooth changeover because of Foster’s previous work and involvement with the Akron-Fairgrove Public School District.

Foster was assistant superintendent for three years under Stephen Ley, who resigned from Akron-Fairgrove Schools Aug. 31.

Education was Foster’s career of choice for many years before coming to Akron-Fairgrove Schools, she said.

“I could tell when I was younger,” said Foster. “I knew that the things I could explain and get people to understand – I just enjoyed how I could figure out different ways of presenting various concepts.”

As superintendent, Foster wears many hats.

She also has the job of food service and special education coordinator, earned Administrator certification from the state of Michigan in August and  Business Office Specialist certification from the Michigan School Business Officials in April.

Prior to becoming superintendent, she served on Akron-Fairgrove Schools Board of Education for 18 years and was its president for 15 years.

Though her children are adults, getting all her certifications did take time away from her husband, Doug Foster.

Doug Foster works second shift at Bay County Medical Care Facility as a certified nurse’s aide, a sexton for a local cemetery and owns his own business, Doug Foster Builder.

Doug Foster said he discussed Diane Foster’s career with her and knew how much she loved education.

“A lot of her time was here anyway on the school board,” Doug Foster said. “So really the transition was pretty easy because she was here anyway, but now in a different capacity. A lot more hours here, yes, but it was a natural transition.

“I’m proud of her, and I know it’s something she always wanted to do.”

Foster is a native of Cape May, New Jersey. She went to Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1983. But after Doug Foster’s parents became sickly, the couple had to pack up and move to the thumb region of Michigan to help.

Foster said she and her husband stayed, and sent all four of their children to district schools.

“She’s been with this district more than 25 years,” said Ley. “There isn’t anyone more qualified than Diane.”

Lee Matherne, a middle and high school special education and psychology teacher at Akron-Fairgrove Schools said the transition from Ley to Foster has been excellent because of her prior experience with the school board, a parent of Akron-Fairgrove graduates and heR activeness in the community.

“She knows Akron-Fairgrove,” said Matherne. “She has really been a presence with students.”

Matherne noted with Foster as superintendent, she is changing the atmosphere of the schools and students interact with her daily.

Recently, one of Matherne’s special education students went up to Foster and requested frozen yogurt in addition to ice cream treats. Foster agreed and said she is working on it.

“She’s no longer superintendent,” Matherne added. “She’s Mrs. Foster.”

In 2010, Ley said he “technically” retired from Tuscola Intermediate School District as principal but didn’t leave until

Diane Foster is the new Superintendent of Akron Fairgrove Schools. Foster has worked with the school district for the past 25 years. She served on Akron-Fairgrove Schools Board of Education, for 18 years and as a parent of four children who graduated from the district. (Photo by John Cook).
Diane Foster is the new Superintendent of Akron Fairgrove Schools. Foster has worked with the school district for the past 25 years. She served on Akron-Fairgrove Schools Board of Education, for 18 years and as a parent of four children who graduated from the district. (Photo by John Cook).

a year later.

In October 2011, he said he was asked to fill in the interim superintendent position at Akron-Fairgrove Schools but over time the workload began to be more than he could handle.

“I was only supposed to work a couple to three days a week,” said Ley. “Sometimes I did but there were other days that it was four or five, and after a couple of years I thought, ‘We’ve got to make some different arrangements.’”

Foster said she served as Ley’s assistant superintendent starting in 2013 for three years working with him on various projects.

One of those projects is the $3.1 million bond proposal that created upgrades and renovations to the school buildings. Ley said the renovations were made possible by capitalizing on state equalized value (SEV) – the assessed value that has been adjusted following county and state equalization – created by the wind turbines at the borders of the district.

Continuing the district’s success Ley left behind, Foster said she has been committed to reviewing the schools’ curriculum that hasn’t been updated in the past eight years. She has been working close with Akron-Fairgrove Elementary School teachers to update the curriculum and examining children’s test scores to evaluate what is best suited for the school or adhering to state standards.

She said she will continue this same evaluation with the middle and high schools this year.

“This year we’ve implemented a new math series,” Foster said. “We’ve built into our school calendar where we are meeting more with the teachers for data review and how that affects the curriculum which we have never done before,” said Foster.

Pam Erdody, cook and menu maker at Akron-Fairgrove Jr/Sr. High School said having Foster as superintendent and as lunch coordinator is beneficial because she is easy to work for and she’s an easygoing person.

“It was a real easy transition because she’d been in the office for a few years,” said Erdody. “She was already doing most of it.”

Through Foster, the schools now have a free school breakfast and lunch program available to any student despite income. Erdody said since Foster joined the administrative office, things have improved because of her willingness to investigate and solve problems in the district.

Foster said her next goal for the school is increasing district enrollment by 15 percent in the next five years. Currently the elementary school has 130 students and the middle and high schools have 151.

Besides offering the best primary and secondary schooling the district could offer, Foster said if she could accomplish one other thing it would be to continue guiding the community and school learning.

“I want to continue being an educational leader for our community,” said Foster. “I want to continue being the constant for the students who come here.”

Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at debanina@tcadvertiser.com

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