Calling Pettisville Local Schools one of the gems among northwest Ohio school districts, newly-appointed superintendent Josh Clark said his first priority will be to bridge the gap between the COVID era and the gradual return to normalcy.
“The most imperative thing is, we are going to have to take a look at how all the educational pieces and curricular pieces fall into place, but in addition really look at the whole child and the social and emotional aspects that have kind of been exacerbated by this entire thing. That’s going to be, probably, priority number one,” he said.
Clark, 36, was appointed during a Monday Board of Education meeting to a three-year contract as the school district’s new superintendent through 2024. Among 23 candidates, he was one of six to be interviewed. He begins Aug. 1, replacing interim superintendent Ken Boyer, who took the position until the district found a permanent replacement for longtime superintendent Steve Switzer, who retired from education after three decades.
An Archbold native and 2003 high school graduate, Clark earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English and Language Arts Education at Huntington University in Indiana and both a Master’s degree in Administration and Supervision and a superintendent’s licensure at Bowling Green State University. He began teaching in the Warsaw, Ind., school district before faculty stints at Edgerton and Tinora schools.
Clark also served as a principal for Evergreen schools before accepting his current position with the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center in Archbold.
He said as Pettisville school superintendent he’ll continually look for ways to keep the district growing educationally, and wants to ramp up technological offerings. “They’ve got some of the best educators in the state and do a lot of things well, and a big one is the concept that we’re never done growing. We do things well but we also have room to grow,” he said.
And while Pettisville classrooms have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, students have not always been in the seats; some opted for the school district’s virtual academy this school year. Clark said the effects of the more drastic academic changes of the past year won’t be determined for some time.
“There are going to be some immediate academic impacts and, quite frankly, we’re not going to know some of those until we really get back into formal school mode and really access the gaps that COVID has created, both with achievement and some of those opportunity gaps,” he said. “We’re going to have to perform diagnostics to discover where those gaps might be.”
Noting the past year as an unprecedented time in education, Clark added, “Some of this is to locally build the bridge as we move along, and I’m really confident in the personnel and the people we have in place at Pettisville to not only get that done but also look out for the best interest of the whole child. It’s getting the administrative team together, some of the district leadership, and looking at the best course of action to hone in on the social and emotional needs of children.”
His part initially will be to observe and listen to the workings of the school district.
“You’re only as good as who you surround yourself with,” Clark said. “A good leader listens, and the teachers…are bringing history with them, and some ideas as well. So it’s going to be important that I come in and have my eyes and ears open and be as collaborative as I can.”
He said both Pettisville school principals and school board members “are going to be vital in how we work administratively on some day-to-day aspects of the operation of the district.”
And Clark is counting on his 30-plus years of involvement with Pettisville Missionary Church to help him connect with the community. “I’m coming into the position knowing what the community’s about, what they stand for. I think that, in terms of relationships, I hope I’ll be able to make those and keep those,” he said.
Brent Hoylman, Pettisville school board president, said Clark was chosen due to his experience at Evergreen schools and his achievements at NwOESC.
“We felt (they) really lent him a lot of experience for the duties a superintendent is going to handle,” Hoylman said.
Boyer added, “He seems like a very nice, qualified young man.”
Married to Cindy, a teacher in the Archbold school district, and the father of three, Clarks plans to move his family to Pettisville, saying, “We’re all in, and I think that’s the only way you can do it.”
He said, at day’s end, a school superintendent should look both back from where the school district has arrived and forward to creating a vision from which it can take future steps.
“With the people we have around us in the district we can get that done. I can’t wait to hear what people have to say,” Clark said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.