By Sue Moore
After 36 years of teaching and administering in the Vicksburg School System – and parenting his own children there – Charlie Glaes’ legacy might read as follows: “That I was able to take a great institution and work with others to make it better.”
Announcing his retirement as superintendent at the April board meeting, he told an audience of parents, students, teachers and administrators that “After a long period of soul-searching, I will retire at the end of this school year, on June 30. I look forward to the next phase of my life and the opportunities it holds.”
“I also know that I am leaving the District I love strong and poised to move forward boldly,” he continued. “A strong community such as Vicksburg creates the conditions for strong schools that thrive. Our school system has long been recognized as stable and innovative, high achieving and highly supportive; a district attractive to parents and staff.”
Glaes began his career in Vicksburg in 1982 as the suspension room proctor, a position the school board had created so students could continue learning while suspended. He had begun as a teacher aide in Three Rivers and then taught 2nd grade there for four years after graduating from Western Michigan University. Glaes was subbing and working full time on his Master’s degree in administration when Supt. Denny McMahon offered him the suspension room job.
As Vicksburg School Board trustee and then president for 34 years, Skip Knowles watched Glaes progress up the ladder of achievement within the school district. “He went from there to principal at Indian Lake elementary school for three years, Middle School principal for 15 years, assistant superintendent for three years and finally superintendent in 2004.”
“The suspension room offered me valuable experience,” Glaes said. “I worked directly with a lot of students who needed help, socially, emotionally and academically. In addition, they were often angry as they came in. I had to learn to let it roll off my shoulders. Their anger was not about me. We had to make it about helping them to solve problems if possible. It was huge preparation for going into administration, and dealing with angry parents, staff and students.”
Glaes came into the superintendent’s job just as the state of Michigan was tanking financially. “I didn’t like presiding over whittling away what we had accomplished over the last 20 years. We had built up so much [quality] and now we were cutting things. It was difficult to maintain the school’s fiscal integrity and still keep the programs in place that make a school district attractive to students. We were asking staff to make sacrifices in the elementary, middle and high school. Those were dark days,” Glaes recalled.
“We came out of it gradually and were able to maintain and even expand our amazing fine arts opportunities for which we’re known,” Glaes pointed out. That included the band, choir, art classes, film/video, drama and musical performances on display in the Celebration of the Arts presented every two years from the grade schools through high school. “Parents, grandparents and the community can see what is happening here, what kids are able to do when given these opportunities.”
The stadium project was another example Glaes cited as one that opened up a whole new era of sports participation in the schools in 2006. “The old field, built on a swamp, was a mess. The track was unusable, the bleachers were scary. We were able to utilize the first three years of the countywide enhancement millage at no further taxpayer expense.
“I remember the first day we could officially use it. The cheerleaders were practicing in the end zone, the football teams, the soccer team all practiced on the same day, then the marching band in the evening and finally members of the community out walking the new track. In the years before, we could barely let the football team on it to play on Friday nights.”
Glaes closed with his appreciation of the strong and inclusive culture in the Vicksburg School system. “Vicksburg provides the close relationships and caring of a smaller school with the depth and range of opportunities normally found in large ones. We help make all students college and career ready, so they graduate equipped to take the next step in their lives.”