Ten Questions is a weekly feature by the Daily News profiling some of our many local community leaders.
1. Who are you? Penny Dora, 57. Greenville has been my home for 40 years. I graduated from Central Montcalm High School so I am definitely a Montcalm County girl. I have worked at the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) for 20+ years and I currently serve as the director of Communications and Administrative Services. Ironically, my very first job as a young teenager was a summertime file clerk at MAISD.
2. Describe your job duties/responsibilities in 50 words or less: The MAISD is one of 56 public school educational service agencies in Michigan. We were designed by legislation in 1962 to serve our local school districts by providing collaborative support for special education, career technical education, and general education services. We support the local school districts of Carson City-Crystal, Central Montcalm, Greenville, Lakeview, Montabella, Tri County, Vestaburg and Flat River Academy, as well as collaborate with countless community agencies and business partners to bring educational services to our students, schools, and local communities. My role is to promote these services and provide as much information, resources, and support to MAISD and our constituent districts as I possibly can.
3. What is your favorite part about your job? What’s the most challenging? Serving at the ISD level allows me the privilege of working closely with all seven of our public school districts and seeing the incredible dedication all school employees throughout this county have for the students and families we all serve. We have a tremendous group of employees who have expert knowledge in their fields, they love what they do and they do it well. I find it inspiring to be part of a system that makes a difference, not only in our schools, but also in our communities. The most challenging part is that we are a very small ISD comparatively speaking which impacts our funding, resources, and ability to provide more staffing and more opportunities.
4. What local issues are the most important to you in your community, and what are some of your main priorities this year? Workforce shortage. It doesn’t seem to matter where you turn, every employment sector is facing a shortage of qualified workers and the trend doesn’t seem to be improving. At MAISD, we operate the Montcalm Area Career Center and offer career/technical education programs for high school students in Montcalm County. We have strong partnerships with our area employers. One of our priorities is promoting these programs and bringing awareness to students about incredible careers that exist right here in Montcalm County.
5. What’s your favorite local bar/restaurant, and why? I used to work at the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, so supporting local businesses is very important to me. They are the backbone of our communities. Rather than picking a favorite, my husband and I like to venture around and try them all. It depends on what you are craving that particular day. I love a good glass of pinot noir and I enjoy trying craft beers. You can find so many fantastic venues not just in Greenville but all over our county.
6. What’s a hidden gem in your community that most people might not know about? The Montcalm Dolly Parton Imagination Library. This is a tremendous early literacy program that provides a free age level book to children ages 0-4 years old. The books are mailed to the child’s home once a month at no cost to the family. The program is funded 100% by private donations and business sponsorships. Any child living in any of the school districts served by MAISD is eligible to receive free books regardless of their income.
7. What TV shows/movies/books have you enjoyed lately, and why? Anything sports related. It is football season and I am a huge Detroit Lions fan. I am also an avid runner so I am a junkie for anything about track and field. I am always in awe of the athletic accomplishments that people are able to achieve. For TV shows, for some reason, I have gotten hooked on “Chicago Fire.” As far as reading, I have been inspired by the short stories in a leadership book called “Tough Skin Soft Heart.”
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 small town life. The feeling of community and friendship is amazing. I have always valued community service and the way people work together to bring so many opportunities for others to enjoy, like all the summer festivals and free concerts that surround our small towns. If I could change the world, I would work toward bringing peace and harmony, maybe a little more love and respect for others.
9. What stories/columns/features do you enjoy reading the most in the Daily News? The Daily News is a tremendous resource for Montcalm County and I think they are often under-appreciated. Having a daily community newspaper is a rare find in today’s world. We would never read about local stories covering our own communities in a bigger more regional venue. It just wouldn’t happen. I subscribe to both the written and electronic version and read them every day. I love Maureen Burns’ column on Saturdays. She is hilarious.
10. What is the last thing you did at your local library? (question submitted by last week’s subject, Reynolds Township Library Director Cheryl Smith) Dora: I was just at the Flat River Community Library a few days ago to meet with Stefanie Reed, the library director, about some work we are doing together as we are both members of the Greenville Rotary Club. This is a great time to give a shout out to all of our local libraries. They are amazing partners for early childhood literacy programs and our Great Start Collaborative children’s play groups. They offer fantastic programs.
Penny Dora can be contacted at email@example.com or (616) 225-6136.
Ten Questions is compiled by News Editor Elisabeth Waldon.