ST. NICHOLAS - In less than three weeks, the Mid Peninsula School District will welcome back a former employee when Mary Brayak returns to be the new superintendent there.
The Mid Peninsula School Board hired Brayak, 56, of Rapid River, as its top administrator earlier this spring. Since then, Brayak and Mid Pen's current superintendent, Bethney Bergh, have been working together to ensure the changing of the superintendents goes well.
"I think it's going to be a really smooth transition," commented Bergh, 38, of Marquette. "Mary is familiar with the district. I think she'll do just fine at it. She's coming with some really good experience and she's aware of where the district is at."
Bark River-Harris Superintendent Mary Brayak, left, and Mid Peninsula School Superintendent Bethney Bergh pose for a photograph at Mid Pen’s graduation. Brayak has been hired as the district’s new superintendent effective July 1, replacing Bergh, who has accepted a faculty position at Northern Michigan University. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
Brayak began her education career at Mid Peninsula as a teacher in 1977 when the Rock and Perkins schools consolidated. She worked there for 26 years as an educator and later as director of student services.
From there she was employed at the Gladstone Middle School as director of student services and assistant principal for two years. She was the high school principal at Bark River-Harris for four years and served the past year as school superintendent. The district is now in the process of hiring her replacement.
Brayak said she's going to miss everybody including the kids, parents, staff and the school board at Bark River-Harris, which she called "a wonderful school district."
Brayak said she's looking forward to the challenges of being superintendent/principal/counselor at Mid Peninsula, a district with a population of about 230 students. Bark River-Harris is about three times the size.
"I'm really looking forward to a grassroots effort with the wonderful communities. I'm looking forward to rekindling a lot of teacher relationships," said Brayak. "I'm looking forward to a leadership role with young, energetic teachers."
Brayak said her biggest challenge will be, as is for any district, the uncertainty of state finances. Though legislators may present a public education budget much earlier this year, there are a lot of budget constraints everywhere, she said.
"It's a difficult time for schools," Brayak commented. "The challenge will be to continue to offer a quality education on a much more limited budget."
Brayak has been familiarizing herself with the Mid Peninsula budget and school community by attending board meetings and committee meetings as well as learning alongside Superintendent Bergh.
Bergh has been the district's superintendent - and principal and counselor - for the past year and a half. She was originally hired at Mid Peninsula 10 years ago as a high school English teacher. She also taught sociology and psychology. She was counselor and principal for years prior to being named superintendent.
Bergh is leaving the K-12 district to work as a faculty member in the education department at Northern Michigan University, where she will be teaching online administration classes.
"I'm going to miss the daily interaction with students and staff," Bergh said, reflecting on her decade at Mid Pen.
"My favorite thing at Mid Peninsula is the small-school atmosphere that allows you to know the staff and students very well. And I'll miss the close-knit community," Bergh said, adding she's "really, really appreciative" of the support she's received over the years.
Bergh plans to teach one online class at NMU this summer and will officially start her new job during the upcoming fall term.
"I'm very excited about it and feel I can make a contribution there," she said.