Wade Lucas gave his last report as Olentangy Local Schools’ superintendent last week.
“I won’t be like (quarterback) Brett Favre and make (multiple) comebacks,” Lucas said at the school board’s meeting last Thursday. “This is my last one. It has been a supreme pleasure to serve this school district. I like it so much, I’m going to be around as a taxpayer.”
While thanking the board members for what they bring to the table, Lucas said there were three challenges facing the district moving forward.
First was academic achievement. Lucas said there was a time before his arrival when Olentangy was ranked 19 out of 20 similar districts.
“Today, we’re number 26 out of 610 school districts in the state of Ohio,” Lucas said. “We have a Performance Index of 108.7 (out of a possible 120), and we continue to have families move into our district because of the school system. I’m not saying that to have you pour Gatorade on me or do a cheer for me, but we have a lot of people doing great things for the lucky 20,000 or so kids in the school district.”
Second was fiscal responsibility. Lucas recalled that former board president Dimon McFerson once told him, “You need to be a leader and determine how far we can stretch these dollars in an efficient and resourceful manner.” In turn, Lucas has told board members, “You cannot continue to go back to locally controlled school districts every three years and say, we need more.
“So instead of averaging three years on the ballot, we’re going to have a positive balance through 2018. It might be six or seven years before we go on the ballot, but one thing we found out very quickly is that as long as we continue to show our taxpayers that we are efficient and resourceful with our money, they will support us. I appreciate that, because it’s not an open checkbook in this business.”
The third challenge was social issues.
“Whether we’re talking about substance or sexual abuse, mental health needs, diversity and how people are different, what matters is the fact that Olentangy has to be the leader of that parade, and not the one that falls behind and says, let’s see what everybody else does. Yeah, we’re the reading, writing and arithmetic bunch, but we’re also a direct reflection of our society. We have social issues in this country, and we can’t wish them away or look the other way — we have to meet them head on. For us to sit here, working with our kids and make believe that those things don’t happen in the social arena is an absolute travesty and what I would call sticking your head in the sand.”
Board President Kevin O’Brien said to Lucas, “When you took the job, you said your goal was to leave the district better off than when you started, and I think your track record clearly demonstrates you’ve been successful in that objective.”
“Your insight and instincts have been a great value to this school district,” board member Dave King said to Lucas.
Board member Roger Bartz thanked Lucas. “On behalf of my two boys, one who’s graduated and is gainfully employed because of what he got here.”
“As the only person on the board who hired him, I always write down my feelings when I interview someone at the top of the page,” said Julie Wagner-Feasel. “I wrote down Lou Holtz — that’s my favorite coach in the world. That’s what he reminded me of, and at that time we were looking someone who could lead us into battle, because we had a lot of battles before us. He’s done that very successfully.”
Board member Adam White was present at the meeting and did not comment. However, he and all those in attendance did applaud Lucas following his report.
Lucas will retire at the end of August, and Mark Raiff will start as the new superintendent Aug. 1. The next school board meeting is Aug. 13.Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.