New Marion County school superintendents enjoying the work so far
Marion County's newest school district superintendents say they're adjusting well to their new roles.
Ridgedale Local School District's board of education hired Dr. Erika Bower to be its new superintendent last February. She replaced Bob Britton, who left Ridgedale Local after serving as superintendent for 14 years. He is now superintendent of Bucyrus City Schools.
Down the road at the Pleasant Local School District, Tom McDonnell was appointed by the board of education to be the superintendent last June. He replaced Jennifer Adams, who had been superintendent at Pleasant since 2017. She is now the director of assessment, curriculum, and grants at Bucyrus City Schools.
Bower takes time to listen to the Ridgedale community
Bower said she has paid close attention to the stakeholder survey that superintendent search firm K-12 Consulting prepared for the Ridgedale Local Schools board of education, noting it has provided an important blueprint of what is important to district residents. The survey included feedback from community residents as well as Ridgedale administrators, faculty, and staff.
"There were four key things that all of the stakeholders agreed on," Bower said. "They wanted us to focus on academics, to look at the safety of our students, look at community partnerships - both inside the Ridgedale community and beyond - and how we stay fiscally responsible - taking care of our facilities and making sure we spend the money the way it's supposed to be spent.
"A lot of districts do vision and mission statements and you have to go out and do these surveys, but it was already done here and it gave me a springboard of where to start as we move forward now. Our job is to empower students to reach their full potential and we do that through the four ideas the stakeholders focused on."
Now six months into her tenure as superintendent, Bower said she is working to keep parents and district residents informed and involved through a quarterly newsletter and a weekly "one call" update that is posted to the district's website and Facebook page. Additionally, she makes herself available to people at various school events and is active in the Marion Area Workforce Acceleration Collaborative (MAWAC). She's also spent time meeting with township trustees to discuss various issues.
"We're always trying to find ways to be out there, meeting people where they are," Bower said. "We're looking for ways to get out there and go to our community residents instead of always waiting for them to come to us."
Bower said the district is currently working on several initiatives to improve the educational experience for its students, including a program to better serve children with dyslexia. The district is also using YouScience, a programs that "helps students discover their natural aptitudes and connects them to highly personal and relevant pathways."
The district recently hosted its first Career Cafe with nurses from OhioHealth as the guest speakers. They talked with students about opportunities available to them in the medical profession and students were able to enjoy a networking experience. Bower said the next Career Cafe is scheduled for Feb. 24.
McDonnell is learning about Marion County
As a newcomer to Marion County in general and the Pleasant Local School District in particular, McDonnell said he's made the time to get out and meet people all across the community, both business and local government leaders and community residents. He said he's learned much over the past six months.
"First and foremost, there's a lot of great people at Pleasant and in Marion County," he said. "I'm a part of Leadership Marion (leadership development program run by the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce). That has been great because it's helped me get to know some of the community members and some of my colleagues in Marion County a little bit better. Just getting to know the community has been great."
McDonnell noted in particular that the Pleasant community has been "very welcoming" to him as the new superintendent. He said the rich history of the district and peoples' dedication to it is impressive.
"One of the noticeable things that struck me here is the number of multi-generational families in the district," he said. "People who have said to me, 'I went to Pleasant, my kids went to Pleasant, and now you have my grandkids.' That has been really noticeable to me. The sense of community. People are proud here of the district. These are Pleasant Spartans and Pandas before that, going way back. They've been very supportive."
McDonnell said moving into a new building last fall has energized the district and the faculty and staff are committed to moving the district forward in a positive fashion.
"We have talked a lot about 'Spartans Advance,'" he said. "It's the mindset here. Every day we want to move this district forward. Our goal is to give our kids the best opportunities to succeed."
McDonnell said the district's leadership team is formulating plans to help improve academic testing scores and create more positive academic experiences for students to help them reach their future goals.
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This article originally appeared on Marion Star: New Marion County school superintendents enjoying the work so far