With the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD) set to open its sixth middle school ahead of the 2023-24 school year, the man tasked with leading the opening of the building has been identified. In a press release last week, the district announced Nathan Davis will serve as the first principal at Olentangy Berlin Middle School, pending approval by the Board of Education later this week.
Davis has served as the assistant principal at Olentangy High School for the past four years, and he will bring a total of 17 years of experience in education to his role at the new middle school. Of his 17 years in education, 13 have been at the middle school level and have included roles as an athletic director and dean of students in addition to teaching.
“I look forward to building a community of learners that are focused on getting better every day and partnering with our parent community to make it happen,” Davis said in the release. “We will honor the traditions and experiences that students anticipate in middle school and build new traditions together.”
While Davis said he never envisioned becoming a principal when he began his journey in education, he appreciates being able to have a larger impact on students outside of just his classroom. Specifically, Davis said he’s excited to return to the middle school level where students are still very much figuring out who and what they want to be.
“High school kids, by the time they get to be in high school, a lot of them have this very firm idea in their heads about where they’re going to go and what they’re going to do … What I love about middle school is the kids change more from sixth through eighth grade than they do at any other time except birth through 2 years old,” Davis told The Gazette. “The coolest thing about that is they are very much open books when they walk into middle school, and they have so much growing to do so rapidly that you really get to have a huge hand in who they develop into as people. I think that’s a lot of fun.”
To be able to guide those students as part of a brand new building only adds to Davis’ excitement, he said.
“This is an opportunity that most administrators never get, to open their own building, to hire their own staff, to look to establish from day one what the culture is going to look like. It’s an incredible opportunity,” he said.
For any new school building, establishing a culture is imperative in the early going as a baseline for what students can expect when they walk the halls. Davis will have the opportunity to build that culture from the ground up, something he’s already thinking about with still more than a year remaining until it opens.
“I want it to be our culture. My biggest thing is I want everyone in the building, myself included, to be growing every day,” Davis said.
Davis added that after the staff is hired and he knows which students will serve as the first student body at the school, he can go about learning which life skills parents believe are important for their children as he begins to mold the foundation of the school.
He went on to say, “When I ask a kid what the school rules are at Olentangy (High School), I don’t want them to tell me that hats aren’t allowed in the building or they’re supposed to be in class on time. I want them to say that at Olentangy High School, we’re brave, we are balanced, we’re resilient, we have a good attitude, we value ourselves and each other, and we have empathy for others. I want them to tell me what those values are, and then those values drive everything else.”
Pending his approval during Thursday’s school board meeting, Davis will officially begin his role as principal of Olentangy Berlin Middle School in August.
Located on Piatt Road, just north of Cheshire Elementary School, Olentangy Berlin Middle School is a product of the ballot issue that residents passed in the spring of 2020. The building will provide much-needed relief to the district’s ever-pressing concerns of overcrowding as enrollment figures continue to climb.
“Olentangy Berlin Middle School will open in time to relieve overcrowding in our middle schools,” Superintendent Mark Raiff said in the release. “We are thankful for the continued support of our community that allows us to offer continuity with our programs, maintaining our outstanding middle school experience for students.
“A student’s middle school years are imperative to their academic and personal growth. We are confident that with Mr. Davis’ leadership, experience, and commitment to our mission, the future Berlin Middle School students will flourish.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.