For the new principal of Evergreen Middle School, it feels like coming home.
Brady Ruffer, who assumed his duties Aug. 1, is glad to be back among junior high students, an age group for which he shares a special affinity. “I kind of have my inner child. You can put your guard down with kids and have fun,” he said.
One of five candidates for the position, the Stryker resident was approved for a two-year contract by the Evergreen Board of Education at a May 14 meeting. His salary will be $78,000 annually. He replaces Joe Zabowski, who retired.
A 2008 graduate of Stryker High School, Ruffer, 30, earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Kent State University and a Masters in Education Administration and Supervision from Bowling Green State University. His first assignment was teaching social studies to grades 7-12 at North Central Local Schools in Pioneer, Ohio, while also coaching basketball, cross country, and track. Later, he became assistant principal at Fairview Elementary School in Sherwood, Ohio.
“I like the elementary students but I miss the older kids. They’re a little more my area of expertise,” Ruffer said. “We’ve got to meet the needs of the whole child…especially with middle school kids. It’s that challenging time in their lives. We have to make sure we’re supporting them emotionally and socially during that pre-teen age that can be a difficult time. The kids are still trying to find their way.”
Ruffer said he was no stranger to the Evergreen school district’s well-respected reputation. “Being a lifelong resident of northwest Ohio, Evergreen has always been a high achieving school (district), so there are expectations that they’re going to do well and there’s a high quality education,” he said. “There’s more than just academics and sports. It’s well-rounded, and there’s just a constant push for improvement.”
He also praised the community as supportive of education, adding, “It’s got that small town, rural feel, where the school is the center of the community. That’s what I love.”
Ruffer has no upfront agenda as principal; he simply wants to learn all he can about the district.
“There’s always that learning curve going to a new school,” he said. “The first year is just learning about the students and getting to know the community and teachers. There’s a lot of good going on (at Evergreen). The biggest thing is just to collaborate with staff and the administration.”
His single exception to introducing something new will be Ruffer’s implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. He said the program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and required by the State of Ohio, is a way to teach students positive behaviors.
“It’s a shift away from punishing kids, giving them detention, and moving on. There will still be consequences, but we’re adding this aspect of making sure we’re teaching them and helping them,” he said.
As his tenure advances, Ruffer may tweak aspects of the district’s operation. “My philosophy is, there’s always room for improvement, and I’d do that with collaboration of staff,” he said.
With a love for social studies, history, and politics, Ruffer’s passion for education was inspired by John Davis, his high school social studies teacher. “He challenged me. He pushed me to think outside of the box. He had a different way of presenting things,” Ruffer said.
Evergreen Board of Education member Nora Kiefer said Ruffer was selected for his elementary and middle school backgrounds but also because he stood out among the candidates. “With his deep passion for students and education, we felt it was perfect for the Viking community,” she said.
Superintendent Eric Smola said it was obvious Ruffer is a good fit for the district. “Mr. Ruffer’s passion for students and education was immediately evident in the interveiw process. We knew he would have a positive impact on everyone in the middle school, from the students to the staff to the parents,” he said.
Married with two children, Ruffer plans to be a visible presence among the middle school students and within the Village of Metamora, and will welcome visits to his office.
“I can’t wait to get into the hallways and talk to the kids,” he said. “I’m just overall excited to serve Evergreen. I want to be here a while, get to know the kids and the community. I’m just ready for the journey.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.