By Tom Tolen /

There was a moment of stunned silence among Brighton Board of Education members Thursday night when Superintendent Greg Gray announced he was retiring at the end of the current school year on June 30th.

Gray has been credited almost single-handedly with bringing the district out of deficit. Gray, who is only 48 - which is very young for a retiring superintendent - told WHMI after the meeting that he hasn’t made up his mind where his next career path will take him. He said, in his words,“I want to thank the Brighton community. It’s a great community and it’s going to continue to make great progress.”

Gray said further that, “It’s a tough (decision).” But he said he is confident the board will find great candidates to be his successor. At the meeting, Board Secretary Roger Myers said, “I’m speechless, (but) I wish you all the best.” Board Vice President Alicia Reid, who conducted the meeting in the absense of Board President Andy Burchfield, said, “There are going to be some big shoes for us to fill.”

Gray arrived in Brighton in 2009 from the superintendency of the Owosso School District. When first hired, he said he would remain in Brighton until his daughter graduated from high school, and that prediction has proved true. His daughter will graduate in June from Brighton High School. Gray, who is married, also has a son, who is a student at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. In 2013, Gray was courted extensively by the Portage School District near Kalamazoo for the superintendency, but - after a campaign by Brighton area parents - was convinced to stay. Although the board hasn’t had a chance to discuss the matter, it will likely form a search committee at the May 11th meeting - or perhaps even sooner, if a special meeting is scheduled.

Gray told WHMI he will be taking time off in July after his retirement takes effect to think about a future career course. Former school board member John Conely, who served two terms and was often at odds with some other board members and the teachers’ union, said he has nothing but the highest regard for Gray, and thinks he would make an excellent school consultant. Conely said that Gray “got Brighton back on the right track to financial stability and sound leadership.”

Board Trustee Ken Stahl said at the meeting that Gray is “going to be missed,” adding the board appreciates everything he’s done for the district. Gray, who is originally from Grand Ledge near Lansing, received his bachelor’s degree from Alma College and earned his master’s degree and doctorate from Western Michigan University.

Under the leadership of Gray and former Assistant Superintendent for Finance Maria Gistinger, the district went from a deficit of at least $8 million to a fund balance for the 2018-19 fiscal year of about $8 million. In 2018, Brighton High School was listed in the top 3% of high schools nationally by US News and World Report. Also in 2018, Brighton High was honored by ESPN as one of only five high schools in the nation to be honored as “Exemplary Schools” for their inclusiveness through the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program. And this spring the Brighton Area School District was recognized by the Library of Michigan, with seven district schools earning Exemplary certification in the 21st Century Library benchmarks program. The district has an enrollment of 6,054 students.