Stacy Holbrook
Contributing Writer

(Photo provided: Dr. W.L. DeFrance, Superintendent)

Sometimes, our ideas in life take a turn in a direction we do not expect. When that door opens you may find a new purpose and path allowing you to make a big impact on those around you, as well as the community you serve. This is the journey of Dr. Bill DeFrance, currently serving his community as Eaton Rapids Public Schools Superintendent for the past 20 years.

Bill DeFrance started his journey in Cleveland, Ohio; working and attending college, alongside his wife. There he completed a master’s degree in economics. Bill received a Congressional Fellowship where his plan was to return to Cleveland and attend Kent State University and work on a sports and marketing program for life after. To his surprise he was transferred to Detroit and chose a similar but different route. He earned his second Master’s in Sports and Education Administration.

Bill’s extensive business background allowed him to design his program. Bill was encouraged to pursue his Ph.D. One of the advisors was the former Superintendent at Dearborn, MI who had taken over a position at Wayne State University as director of the Metro Bureau. The bureau served Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties providing training and management negotiation support. His advisor asked Bill if he ever considered being a school superintendent. This was definitely not the direction Bill saw his life taking; however, life’s needs, and the encouragement of his wife led to the test. Bill left his career in telecommunications and went to work as chief operating officer for Flint Community Schools.

The position of superintendent in Eaton Rapids brought Bill and his family here. Over the course of Bill’s twenty years, one of the biggest struggles he has seen in our schools has been the large growth in social media use; kids have cellphones as “appendages to their bodies.” The constant distractions forced the school administrators to put rules in place to limit cellphone use to lunchtime. He has been frustrated by the decline in students in the district.

Bill has worked hard to implement programs like Project Based Learning (SUMMIT and Montessori), and LCC career and technical classes for high school students. His goal has always been to prepare students to look forward to the future. Some things never change: learning to speak articulately and intelligently, writing cogently, having strong analytical skills and working in groups are what studies show businesses are looking for in their employees.

When Bill retires, he said he will miss working with the Board members, teachers, coaches and students; but he will not miss the four o’clock calls on the early winter mornings or the situations where the versions of an incident are more than the number of people involved. Bill plans to continue with the Downtown Development Association (DDA), refereeing soccer, staying active in the Rotary Club and helping with church projects like the mobile food pantry and Cinderella’s Closet. Bill plans on taking his wife and visiting France, where his ancestors are from, as well as spending time with his four grandchildren. What fun!