Ten Questions is a weekly feature by the Daily News profiling some of our many local community leaders.
1. Who are you? Ethan Ebenstein, superintendent of the Ionia County Intermediate School District, age 51, grew up in White Cloud, currently reside in Walker.
2. Describe your job in 50 words or less: At the ISD, we work primarily in the areas of special education and career-technical education. We also support our local districts in a variety of additional ways including curriculum and instruction, technology and business services.
3. What is your favorite part about your job? What’s the most challenging? The most rewarding part is helping students meet their goals and find success. A challenge is striving to ensure all students have the adequate resources they need to work towards meeting those goals.
4. What local issues are the most important to you, and what are some of your main priorities this year? A primary issue for schools is working on meeting the needs of the “whole child.” For a student to reach his or her potential, there are many needs that need to be addressed. This includes adequate food resources, housing and mental health support to name three significant ones. These are always priorities for us and we are grateful to have partners like IM Kids 3rd Meal, United Way of Montcalm-Ionia and the Ionia County Community Foundation to help with our mission.
5. What’s your favorite local bar/restaurant, and why? There are so many good places in Ionia County! If pressed to choose, Olivera’s for the seafood salad. I also have a sweet tooth so thoroughly enjoy Moo-ville, Meyers’ Bakery and the Portland Party Store doughnuts.
6. What’s a hidden gem in your community that most people might not know about? It’s not a hidden gem, but as a coffee lover I have to mention Sozo’s in Ionia.
7. What TV shows/movies/books have you enjoyed lately, and why? Any TV programs or movies I can watch with my college-age sons are deeply enjoyable. Based on mutual interests, we watch a lot of Marvel, “Star Wars,” comedies or competition shows like “Amazing Race.”
8. What do you like the most about living in your particular community? What’s one thing you would change/add/remove if you could? I love working in and traveling through Ionia County. Without a doubt, the most enjoyable parts of the communities are the people. Compassionate, altruistic, hard-working; these are values and characteristics readily encountered and greatly respected. One thing I would love to see added would be more affordable housing for families.
9. What stories/columns/features do you enjoy reading the most in the Daily News? What would you like to see more of in your local newspaper? I love articles that focus on the positive sides to life that are often overlooked. There is a lot of focus on issues and topics that divide; but there is so much that unites us that is often overlooked. We need to be reminded of our unifying bonds and the “good” that happens every single day, often without fanfare or attention.
10. When you first took public office, was it what you expected? How have you changed your viewpoint of public office over the years? (random question submitted by last week’s subject, Pierson Township Supervisor Dan Buyze) Ebenstein: Yes and no. From a technical standpoint of essential job duties, yes. However, being a school district superintendent comes with a great deal of unpredictable situations. Each day bears the potential for a unique situation to develop. In my 17 years as a superintendent, times have definitely changed. I would say one thing that has changed — and not for the better — has been the politicization of education. Education should be a unifying part of our society as it involves preparing our students for all of our futures, but instead it seems to have become another area being used to divide people.
Ethan Ebenstein can be contacted at (616) 527-4900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ten Questions is compiled by News Editor Elisabeth Waldon.