May 31, 2019
Superintendent’s Message: A Love Letter
A Heartfelt Goodbye, Nine Years in The Making
September 3, 2010. That was the date of our first electronic district newsletter. The first article, “Introducing the Weekly District Newsletter,” noted: “Those who are signed up for electronic communications through OH Connections will begin receiving a weekly district newsletter via email. The newsletter, delivered to your email address each Friday, will contain a message from Superintendent Kevin Miller and some reminders and notes about elementary school, junior/senior high school, and district events.”
My first “Superintendent’s Message” shared the news that Ottawa Hills was one of 81 school districts in Ohio to earn the state’s highest rating of “Excellent with Distinction” on its Local Report Card issued by the Ohio Department of Education. There was a brief message about the beginning of the year at the elementary and a short article about the second graders going on an “insect safari.”
Since then, our weekly digital newsletter has evolved into an important source of information for our parents, our community, and our alumni. Each week, over 2,000 subscribers to OH Connections receive our newsletter, emailed to them each Friday morning during the school year. It has grown to include a plethora of articles, sharing information and insight into everything from classroom happenings to events in the arts, in athletics, in our community, and more.
Some say the newsletter is too long, but I don’t kid myself to think that every person who receives the newsletter reads every article.In thinking about shortening it, we ask: “What would we leave out?” The newsletter is a chronicle of what is happening at Ottawa Hills Schools each week. It’s your window into our world. And it’s also our accountability to you. The newsletter provides a venue for us to assure you that every week, we continue to carry on the longstanding tradition of excellence that is an integral part of who we are and what we do.
One time, village resident Clare Hylant told me: “Every Friday morning, I grab a cup of coffee, sit down with the district newsletter, and enjoy reading the articles.” So as I would burn the midnight oil putting the newsletter together on Thursday nights, I reminded myself that, if it mattered to no one else, it mattered to Clare. And that was good enough for me.
News from the Junior/Senior High School and from the Elementary School has always been provided by our principals, our teachers, our athletic department, and others. My job was to put it all together and to write my weekly “Superintendent’s Message.” That lead-off article sometimes shared technical information such as financial information or updates on our strategic plan goals. But the articles that people enjoyed most were the human interest stories (and they were my favorite articles, too). Among those, the ones that were the most meaningful to me were the “retirement articles” that were written for each faculty and staff member as they wrapped up their service to Ottawa Hills Schools. It was a pleasure to sit down with retiring staff members to hear their story and to relay those stories to you via our district newsletter.
Many late Thursday nights and early Friday mornings were dedicated to writing my weekly article. Though I’ve written a few articles this year, that responsibility has been handed off to our Director of Communications, Kevin Merrill. He has continued the tradition of writing informative and engaging articles to lead off our weekly newsletter, and for that, I am very thankful.
Yet, I knew there was going to come a time when I would write one more article. The final article. And that time has come.
As you know, I am retiring from public education and Ottawa Hills Schools on July 31 as I begin a new position with the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) in Columbus. There, I will serve as Director of Government Relations. My job will be two-fold: lobbying on behalf of legislation that impacts public education, and acting as a liaison between BASA and the state’s superintendents to keep them informed of legislation that will impact their school districts. I will begin my new position on August 1.
Our family has decided that we’re going to stay in Ottawa Hills for one more year so that our oldest, Yale, can graduate from Ottawa Hills next year. We will look to move to Columbus a year from now.
After 36 years in education, including nine years at Ottawa Hills, this transition will become the biggest of my life. Lately, people have been asking me, “Are you excited about your new job?” And my honest answer has been “No.” Not right now anyway. I know I’ll get there, but right now, I’ve been caught up in the emotions of experiencing “the last time.” The last time I’ll enjoy a school event with the knowledge that those are “my kids” up on the stage or out on the field. The last time I’ll walk into the school with my sons by my side. The last time I’ll present the graduating class as they prepare to receive their diplomas.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say something profound and memorable to you. But honestly, that pressure is too great. There’s no way I can summarize nine years of serving this great school district and what it has meant to me over the years in a short article. Not even in a long article. If forced to share a parting thought (and I’m forcing myself to do that), I say this: It’s difficult to leave a place you’ve fallen in love with.
When I came to Ottawa Hills, I had served the Wayne Trace School District for 19 years and the Hicksville Village School District for eight years. I couldn’t have asked for better experiences than the experiences I had at those school districts. Yet as a teacher, as a principal, and as a superintendent, my jobs were all-consuming. I just enjoyed what I was doing, the people I worked with, and the communities I worked for so much that I invested every ounce of my energy and every minute of my time in those schools. I loved it, but it was exhausting.
So when I came to Ottawa Hills, I gave myself one directive: Don’t fall in love.
I thought that if I could look at my new position as more of a job than a calling, then it would be easier to distance myself—leaving it all at the office when I came home. Not becoming so emotionally involved. Not anguishing over every decision, every staff member, every student.
That didn’t last long.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I know this—it was only a matter of weeks before I fell completely and totally in love with Ottawa Hills Schools. I fell in love with who we are and what we do. I fell in love with our teachers and how they constantly reinvent themselves to deliver instruction that maximizes learning for each and every student. I fell in love with an administrative team that inspires me with their work ethic, their total commitment to the district, and their willingness to drop everything to tend to a student in need. I fell in love with parents who come right alongside us, understanding that they are, and will always be, their children’s first and best teachers. I fell in love with a community that makes the support of its children a clear and compelling priority.
But most of all, I fell in love with our students. They never cease to amaze me. We create a structure that promotes excellence. But day to day, they are the ones who take all that we offer them and make it happen. They answer our call to rise up and give us their very best—whether it’s in the classroom, on the stage, or on the field of play. Time and time and time again, they have filled my heart to overflowing with what they do. The way that Ottawa Hills comes together to raise incredible young men and women is unparalleled. It’s a total team effort. And I can assure you—you are getting the job done.
There is something special about an Ottawa Hills kid because there is something special about Ottawa Hills. You can look, but you will never find another community or school district quite like it.
It has been my complete and total pleasure and honor to lead Ottawa Hills Schools over the past nine years. I can best describe the experience as “magical,” and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead this great school district. As I begin a new chapter in my career in a new place, I leave a big piece of my heart right here in Ottawa Hills. Because in the end, that’s what you do with people you love. You give them your heart.
Dr. Kevin S. Miller