Morenci hires Jennifer Ellis as new superintendent

MORENCI — The search for a superintendent for the Morenci School District is complete. On Tuesday, the Morenci School Board voted 7-0 to hire Jennifer Ellis as superintendent.

Ellis, 49, has been principal of Clinton Elementary School for four years. Ellis hasn’t officially signed a contract, but she and Morenci board chairman Scott Merillat say it’s procedural at this point. Merillat said the board initially interviewed three candidates and narrowed it down to two, one of whom was Ellis.

Ellis and the other nominee were interviewed by the board at Tuesday’s meeting. Ellis impressed the board in both interviews, Merillat said.

“I think the board thought she would be a great fit not only for the staff but for the community as well,” Merillat said, noting that he thinks Ellis will take off where former superintendent Mike McAran has. left the district and will take over the job. “…I think it’s going to expand from where McAran took us into a different person, a different philosophy for dealing with people. There’s always excitement with someone new.

Prior to being an elementary school principal for Clinton Schools, she worked for the Lenawee Middle School District as a special education supervisor for three years.

That’s not all she’s done for LISD. She began her career there as an occupational therapist and consultant in autism and technology. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Michigan University.

“I felt like I could really contribute to Morenci and was excited about all the great things they have there and their supportive community and support staff. I thought it was a great opportunity to continue to grow while helping move the district forward. I am so grateful to Clinton Community Schools for the opportunities I had there as well as at ISD,” Ellis said.

Ellis is already strategizing where she wants to take the district.

“I think Morenci has a lot of strengths,” Ellis said of the committed and supportive staff and community. “I would love to help them increase student enrollment and spread that message about the great things happening at Morenci Schools, as well as put their systems and infrastructure in place for sustainability. ”

She is grateful to the Lenawee County community and looks forward to many more great things to come in the community.

“Lenawee County is a great place and I’m excited to continue my career here,” Ellis said.

McAran, 78, who was due to retire on June 30 and nine years ago before taking over as Morenci chief, does not have a quiet bone in his body. On Tuesday, he signed a one-year contract to become the college principal of Britton Deerfield Schools.

Mike McAran, 78, was set to retire from Morenci's top job, but took the college post from Britton-Deerfield the same day Ellis was chosen as Morenci's new superintendent.

McAran has a long history in education in the county. He was superintendent of Tecumseh for several years, then he retired in 2013 and was almost immediately hired by Morenci for what was supposed to be three years to give the board time to do a superintendent search and put some order in its finances.

This obviously turned into a permanent situation. McAran served as district superintendent for nine years.

After considering and deciding not to go to law school, McAran taught history and English in the Fraser School District in Macomb County from 1966 to 1976. He came to Lenawee County as vice principal and athletic director of Tecumseh High School from 1976 to 1983 before accepting a senior position. principal with Sand Creek Community Schools. McAran returned to Tecumseh in 1998 as principal of the college and, following the death of Todd Bingaman, was named superintendent in 2005.

He kept that job during the Great Recession and retired in 2013, but was asked to come to Morenci for an interview. He accepted the position and only retired for about a week when he started his first day in the district’s highest position.

With the district in a strong state financially and contractually, McAran said in May that he would retire on June 30.

McAran wakes up every day at 5:30 a.m. with his wife, Judy, and is out of the house at 7:15 a.m. and on the job site at 7:45 a.m. While last year he tried to limit the number of extracurricular activities he went there three nights a week, he wasn’t home until 10.30pm on those nights. Before, it was every night.

He began to tire behind the wheel on his way home from these events, he said. The trip to Britton-Deerfield from his home in Tecumseh is shorter and there will be fewer nighttime activities at his new job, McAran said.

McAran loves what he does.

“I love being with kids. I really do. Kids set you on fire. When you see kids transforming and succeeding in life, it really excites you. The best part of life,” McAran said.

Britton Deerfield Superintendent Superintendent Stacy Johnson couldn’t resist recruiting McAran.

“Working with Mr. McAran at the superintendent level, he has always been such a great resource and he has so much experience,” she said. “He’s been through it all. The information and real-world experiences he’s been able to bring to the table at superintendent level has always been so positive and he’s such a real guy.

Johnson said it would be great to have someone on staff who she could work things out with and get a second set of eyes.

“We didn’t have a manager at Deerfield and again with that experience that Mike brings to the table, I contacted him and asked if he would be willing to come on board and work with us and continuing his mentorship and leadership and he agreed, and we couldn’t be happier about it,” she said.

Merillat was shocked that McAran accepted the job at Britton-Deerfield. He said McAran was wonderful to work with and left the district in a strong financial position.

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