Mentor Schools superintendent pleased with direction of district

Jan. 7—EDITOR'S NOTE — This is one in a series looking at what Lake County communities and agencies experienced in 2022 and what is facing them in 2023.

Mentor Schools Superintendent Craig Heath has only been on the job since August, but it doesn't feel like that to the veteran educator and Perry native.

"I told someone recently I have been on the job only four months, but it feels like four years," Heath said. "That's how smooth and comfortable the staff and community have made it feel. It is truly a family atmosphere here in Mentor and all the credit goes to the teachers and administration and all the workers and parents and students who have honestly made this a great place to come to work every day."

Mentor is a district that serves about 7,200 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from the City of Mentor and the surrounding communities of Mentor-on-the-Lake, Concord Township and Kirtland Hills. The district operates a pre-school, seven elementary schools, two middle schools, Mentor High and one state-of-the-art specialized school for students with autism, with approximately 1,000 employees.

Heath has not been overwhelmed by the size of the district as his experience in large districts in central Ohio, particularly Dublin Schools in the suburbs of Columbus, prepared him well for the challenges in Mentor.

"I think the experience of working with large districts in Central Ohio has helped me connect with a district of this size and I also have been lucky enough to tap into the experience of our staff members that have a long history with Mentor Schools and especially those that went through the district as students," he said.

Heath said one of the things he was most excited about in his first few months on the job was a "return to normalcy" after some difficult years dealing with the pandemic.

"To see the kids return to full days of in-person classes and not have to wear masks brings us closer to a sense of normalcy," he said. "We are all very happy with a closer return to normal school activity. I think the kids and parents appreciate it as well."

Heath cited a new math curriculum at Mentor Memorial and Mentor Shore middle schools as positive improvements welcomed as a "positive impact".

Another important impact on the district is the 5-year capital improvement plan, which is coming to an end and when it does, Heath wants impact from anyone associated with Mentor Schools when it comes to creating the next 5-year plan.

"As I enter year two on the job, I want to hear from teachers, students, teachers, parents, community members and understand what they want to see," he said.

Heath is pleased with what he has seen from the district as far as keeping facilities at all levels current and safe for students, teachers, fans of athletics and all community members.

"Whether it is improving roofs, parking lots, buses, athletic facilities or whatever, our people do such a nice job of making sure the students have updated and safe facilities across the district and that will continue," he said.

Heath added that providing students in the district with career pathway options and getting them prepared for life after high school, whether that be in the workplace or college or somewhere else, that experience is available in Mentor.

"I have a passion for career tech and hope that we continue to thrive in that area moving forward," he said.