SUNBURY — Ryan McLane is Big Walnut’s new superintendent, but he’s not new to the district. McLane was the principal at Big Walnut Intermediate School (BWI) from 2013-18.
“I’m excited to be back,” McLane told The Gazette on his second day as superintendent. “My two daughters still attend school here, so I believed in Big Walnut.”
Previous Superintendent Angela Hamberg announced on April 13 that she was resigning at the end of the 2021-22 school year. The Big Walnut Board of Education interviewed five candidates on May 27 and believed McLane was the best candidate. He was previously the assistant superintendent at West Muskingum Local Schools in Zanesville, and before that, an elementary principal and director of special education in the same district.
“I never thought about coming back,” McLane said. “This was never part of my plan, but I’m so grateful to be back. This was a chance to dip my toes into the water of district administration in a smaller district outside of Zanesville, with an enrollment of 1,400.”
As an assistant superintendent, McLane said his duties included emptying trash when filling in for a missing custodian during the pandemic.
McLane knew Big Walnut would be expanding when he left, and he feels the new high school and Prairie Run Elementary are “beautiful facilities.”
“BWI was the original high school,” he said. “We’re over 4,000 students, and the housing developments keep coming, along with the potential Intel plant.”
An immediate challenge for McLane will be replacing Treasurer Jeremy Buskirk, who recently announced his resignation. McLane said he worked with Buskirk when he started as treasurer and is fortunate that he’s willing to stay on to ensure a smooth overlap.
As superintendent, McLane said, “The biggest thing is to promote the positives of the district. There’s so many. This is a big district, so I’m not about to micromanage and interview people for every teacher position. I trust the administration to do its job.”
As for the school board, he said, “There’s been clear and constant communication. We’re trying to find a common ground. I believe we all have the best interests of the students in mind, although we may have different ideas on how to achieve it.”
With regards to the ever-changing state school district report cards, McLane agreed with Hamberg that they are a snapshot from months ago and not necessarily the best indicator of what needs improving in the district when they are released.
“We’re giving assessments today, and we’ll make any necessary changes tomorrow instead of waiting for the state report card to come out,” he said. “We’ll look at it, but we’re looking at other things.”
Big Walnut’s mission statement reads, “Our mission is to inspire and guide each student to his or her maximum potential,” and McLane credited previous superintendents Steve Mazzi and Hamberg for their commitment to the mission.
“I’m not looking to change it,” McLane said. “Inspire and guide is the greatest mission statement in the world. I believe in the mission and vision for personalized instruction. We’ll be continuing those things.”
Just as the district issues a five-year financial forecast, McLane’s forecast for the district is that “we’ll be more successful than we were in terms of making students ready for college, a trade, a career, or the military.” This includes providing enough of the arts, athletics and extracurricular activities that will make students want to focus on academics, he added.
As for the 2022-23 school year, McLane said, “God willing, we’re past COVID-19. We stayed open. Everyone pitched in, and we’ll continue to. It’s been hard on everyone, but hopefully, things will get back to normal.”