“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is a quote that kept coming to mind when I was preparing for my opening day address to our entire Kenton City Schools staff this past August. Yes, I’d worked in the district for the past 12 years, but I knew our people would want to know how I intended to lead in this new role as superintendent. It made it so much easier at KES that day to look around at hundreds of faces I already knew, but I was still pretty nervous. I knew this first impression in this new role was important and the words I shared needed to be purposeful. I also knew they didn’t want a fancy powerpoint loaded with facts and data. They wanted to know my vision for where we should be heading and what type of leadership I intended to use to get us there.
It was important they knew my educational journey, so I started by sharing my initial belief that I would probably join the military since that was the path of my dad as well as his father before him. A scholarship to continue playing baseball in college changed that trajectory and led me to a love of teaching. I talked about teaching at Marion Harding from a cart pushed from room to room because the old high school did not have enough classrooms. As with most jobs, the new guy also gets the assignments nobody else wants. This meant teaching the most at-risk students for dropping out which was incredibly challenging, but also quickly showed me the power of building authentic relationships with kids.
However, like most of us at some point or another, I thought the grass looked greener and accepted a teaching and head baseball coaching job at Big Walnut High School near Westerville. Well, the grass was greener…literally, the baseball field had an in ground sprinkler system. Most of the students drove nicer cars than I did and they scored 30 points higher on all the State standardized tests as compared to Harding. Yet, I missed the tougher kids who took work to win over and the positive impact I knew I was having on them.
When I had the opportunity to come here to Kenton in an administrative role, my wife and I both knew this is where we were meant to be. We don’t have the same quantity and level of high needs I saw at Harding, but there are still plenty of students who need an administrator, teacher, bus driver, cafeteria worker, custodian who truly care about them. As I’ve shared before, I have countless stories about how well the people in this school system and community treated us. That is why we raised our kids here and are now proud to be from Kenton.
The journey that brought me here has shaped what I believe should be our number one priority, which is developing positive relationships with kids. My vision is that we become the best district in the state when it comes to building relationships with our students. You can only push a student as far as the level of trust you have built with them. It’s through the development of those relationships that we will strive to teach all our students to lead by serving others.