GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the new superintendent for Kalamazoo Public Schools, community interaction, student improvement and diversity, equity and inclusion are priorities.

Dr. Darrin Slade, previously the deputy superintendent for a Missouri school district, was chosen for the position in May.

Slade told News 8 his first week as superintendent has been “wonderful.”

“I’ve had a great first week,” Slade said. “I’ve had a chance to meet with all the staff, all the community members. We’re having meet-and-greets — ongoing meet-and-greets with the community.”

He said it is important for the community to know and trust the superintendent.

“It’s also important for me, as the superintendent, to hear input from the community on an ongoing basis,” Slade said. “One of the things that I’ve always done in my career is spend a lot of time in schools and classrooms.”

Slade told News 8 that returning from the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for schools.

“Just like the rest of the country, I think the biggest barrier right now is the fact that we’re coming off of a pandemic,” he said. “There was some student declines in different aspects: reading, math scores across the country.”

But Slade said he feels “really good” about improving student achievement and outcomes.

“The goal is to be the most improved school district in the state,” he said. “In the previous districts I worked in, we were able to accomplish that.”

Slade is the first Black man to serve as superintendent for Kalamazoo Public Schools. He told News 8 that it’s “kind of amazing” that it happened in 2023.

“I do appreciate the community and the school board making that happen, but that does point to some struggles that we have as a school district and as a country,” he said.

Slade said a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is important for school districts across the country.