The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jul. 19, 2018

Supts. lead schools they graduated from

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

While their paths have been very different, Crestview’s Kathy Mollenkopf, Lincolnview’s Jeff Snyder, and Vantage’s Rick Turner are all back where they started: heading the school districts from which they graduated decades ago.

Coming home: Lincolnview Superintendent Jeff Snyder, Crestview Superintendent Kathy Mollenkopf, and Vantage Superintendent Rick Turner. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

In many ways, Mollenkopf said she never really left Crestview. Although it took her 10 years to finalize her English degree after graduating in 1976, she noted that then-Crestview superintendent Clark Fleming and high school principal Steve Keller approached her soon after earning her degree to ask whether she would be interested in coming back as a teacher.

She was, and has been at Crestview ever since, spending 12 years as a teacher and the past 20 years as Elementary principal until being hired this year to become the next Crestview superintendent.

Turner had always wanted to come back to Vantage after graduating from the school (and Crestview) in 1979, but it took 32 years to do so.

After he left Vantage, Turner worked for seven years as a machinist for Ley Equipment in Van Wert and then inquired about a teaching job at Vantage.

“Back then, you had to have seven years’ experience in the field before you could teach at a vocational school,” he noted.

Unfortunately, Vantage didn’t have any openings at that time, but he was told that Apollo Career Center in Lima did. He applied there and then spent the next 32 years at Apollo, ending up as Adult Education director before the Vantage superintendent’s job opened up last year.

Turner said that, after three decades, he was happy in his career at Apollo, but the opportunity to be Vantage superintendent was a lure he couldn’t resist.

“This is probably the only opportunity that would have caused me to leave (Apollo) after 32 years,” he noted.

For Snyder, who graduated last, but has been a superintendent the longest, teaching wasn’t even his first choice of a career.

After graduating from Lincolnview in 1988, Snyder went on to earn a degree in education and sports medicine from the University of Toledo and later a master’s in sports medicine from Ohio University. His first job was not in teaching, but as a trainer and director of sports medicine internships at Defiance College. He later worked on, but didn’t complete, a doctorate in higher education, thinking he would eventually become a college dean down the road.

It was Snyder’s father, Ralph, who was also his high school principal, who suggested he might want to look at being a public education administrator, noting it would be a better opportunity to keep his family in Ohio, where he wanted to stay.

Snyder agreed, and later became a principal at Edgerton Local Schools and then Otsego Local Schools before being hired six years ago as Lincolnview superintendent.

All three have also had differing impacts on the schools from which they graduated.

Mollenkopf, as a Crestview administrator for more than two decades, has had a significant impact on the district during that time.

“I’ve been able to help shape, a little bit, the direction the district has taken over the last 20 years,” Mollenkopf noted, “and I have also been able to learn from several high quality superintendents that preceded me.”

Both Turner and Snyder said they returned to districts that had changed very much from when they were students there, but that the changes, in most cases, were very positive.

Snyder, in particular, said he was pleased to see the changes that nearly two decades had made at Lincolnview.

“The people before me did such an incredible job that I have had 5½ years of pure enjoyment (as superintendent),” he noted.

All three were in agreement that they all looked at their positions as ways to thank the communities that raised them and made them what they are today.

“The great thing about this is that it’s a tremendous opportunity to give back,” Turner said.

All three superintendents also noted that it was the children of the community that drew them to their positions.

“My filter has always been kids, and the students, and what we want for them,” Mollenkopf said of her career. Both Snyder and Turner agreed that kids were the major focus of their efforts as well.

Things have changed, though, over the decades. Where local schools, particularly Lincolnview and Crestview as cross-county rivals, largely went their own way, today’s schools find collaboration and partnerships work best in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

As an example, all three spoke of the Career Education Opportunities (CEO) program started at Van Wert City Schools and now being offered to Crestview and Lincolnview as one example of a partnership the schools hope will provide more career choices for students right here in the community.

Vantage and VWCS have also been collaborating for years on Van Wert’s Project Lead the Way pre-engineering and biomedical programs.

“I spend about every day talking to my colleagues at the other county schools,” Snyder said, adding that the collaboration between schools is critical to each school district’s future success.

All three also are members of a county business advisory council, which also includes Van Wert City Schools.

As schools face new financial and other challenges, including declining student populations, Turner, Mollenkopf, and Snyder all said they see collaboration not only continuing, but growing as well.

While each school will no doubt maintain its own unique identity and culture in the coming years, as well as local control, each superintendent sees some combining of classroom programs between the districts as likely down the road. All three, though, view that collaboration as positive for their students’ future growth and education — something they all say is their schools’ main goal.

Meanwhile, all are enjoying being at the school, and in the community, that nurtured and educated them. And all three hope that at least some of their students will do the same after they graduate.

“The goal is to have our graduates love their experience and want to come back,” Snyder said, with all three superintendents agreeing that having students return is a win-win situation for local communities — especially today with a declining county population and so many opportunities available locally.

POSTED: 07/13/18 at 8:11 am. FILED UNDER: News