Multiple Definitions of Success for Students

If you haven’t noticed, schools are working very slowly, but very appropriately, to change our definition of success. This new focus on the different paths to success is rather obvious now, in the time we are in, but there was a time we focused on degree completion and defined success for students as college degree completion. A lot of this change is in response to the needs of our society, as we have dramatic needs for skilled workers.

For years, public schools have heavily promoted college enrollment and eventually completion as the ultimate goal of a high school education.  While that it is very appropriate for some students, it is not appropriate for all. Life experience tells us that degree completion is only one of many pathways to success.

In fact, perhaps the challenge to educators and the key to success, is not only the completion of academic skills, but the combination of academic and “soft skills.”  If there were time-tested skills that were needed, it could be argued soft skills are the most important thing that children can get out of school.

These soft skills will give essentially anyone the capability to be successful in life. The term “soft skills” is somewhat broad and comprehensive, but in a December 20, 2017, article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, she wrote about the surprising things that Google learned about its employees.  The article lists the top seven characteristics for success at Google.  They are:

  1. Communicating and listening well.
  2. Being a good coach.
  3. Possessing insights into others, including others’ different values and points of view.
  4. Having empathy towards and being supportive of one’s colleagues.
  5. Being a good critical thinker and problem-solver.
  6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

It could be argued that the last two are skills that could be learned academically, the others are relational-based skills that simply deal with how you treat and interact with others.  I would argue that if we could go back in time, these soft skills, and maybe a few others, would still make a person successful.

I also came across a summary of a book called Bridging the Gaps: College Pathways to Career Success by James Rosenbaum, Caitlin Ahearn, and Janet Rosenbaum.  This summary talks about the overemphasis on Bachelor’s Degrees and the benefits of sub-baccalaureate credentials for some people.  Again, life experience tells all of us that having a degree doesn’t make someone successful or not, but their ability to continue to learn and apply the soft skills to any particular job will lead them to success in life.

While college is extremely appropriate for many students, it is not appropriate for all students, but success is available to all students if they possess the ability to learn and possess time-tested soft skills. The stigma traditionally attached to students who do not attend or succeed in college was a historical error in the education profession and something that we are working to change.


Ohio Education needs your help.

In Ohio, and in our nation, we continue to struggle with educational policy. From standards to accountability, from funding to control, we continue to be in a state of constant change. As we reflect on these challenges, one constant seems to stand out. In Ohio, we do not seem to have a common understanding of the purpose of public education. Without this common sense of the purpose or mission of public education, we cannot develop coherent and consistent education policy that is not only in the best interest of children, but also allows for districts to create opportunities that will best meet the needs of their students.

To that end, a group of School Superintendents, representing all Superintendents through our professional organization, have been participating in a process that led to the attached draft of a purpose/vision statement for public education in Ohio.

We are seeking your input on this draft by completing the survey in the link below.  The last question is open ended and I would request that you think about what we may have left out of this list of belief statements as we try to improve education in Ohio.  

Education Belief Survey



This post features Mr. Brad Rex as my guest blogger.

Last spring, I along with Principal Minnig and two Wapakoneta coaches, had the opportunity to attend the Inside Out Initiative sponsored by the NFL and hosted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) and the Cincinnati Bengals.  The initiative is gathering steam across the country to put the coaching focus on transforming lives rather than the win at all costs attitude.  The presentation we attended was an introduction to the program.  While we are just in the beginning stages of talking about the initiative, many valuable questions were posed that allow us to refocus on why it is we do what we do.  Here are a few of them:


Why do I coach?

Coaching can, at least at times, be a thankless profession.  There is no question the pay is very minimal for the time and energy our coaches spend working on the game they love.   While the specific answer to this question lies within each individual coach, my observations of Wapakoneta coaches give me a broad understanding as to why they coach:  to interact positively with student-athletes, to be a part of and share their love for their game, and to build a sense of community within the school and community for the sport.  Our coaches do not coach to see their name in the paper or to serve themselves, but rather they do it because they genuinely care for the athletes and the game.  Of course our coaches plan, practice and prepare to win each and every game – but it is not their purpose.  


Why do I coach the way I do?

Take a moment to think back to some of your coaches as a youngster.  Most coaches, at least in the beginning, coach the way they were coached  – for better or worse.  Those coaches who had great influences as a kid will likely use those positive experiences in their own coaching.  The most effective coaches continually learn how to best interact with all athletes, parents, fans and colleagues with whom they encounter.  The Inside Out Initiative is looking for transformational coaches rather than transactional.  I can think back on my playing days fondly of many coaches I had.  Some were better than others, but all added value to my life.  Those coaches that I remember the most were those that built some sort of relationship with me, if only through asking questions about my life.  Two of those coaches pointed me to the position I hold today, and although they may not have said it directly, they had an influence in my life; I would say they were transformational.  


What does it feel like to be coached by me?

This question is not just for coaches as the question can be posed in many ways:  What does it feel like to live with me? What does it feel like to work with me? What does it feel like to interact with me during daily activities? This question can be used to transform the lives of those you come into contact with, and also with yourself.  This impactful, reflective question is one I hope all people ask themselves whether coaching (youth to professionals) or simply interacting in their everyday life.  I’ve been around athletics long enough to know that you are not always going to please everyone.  Parents and athletes are going to feel slighted with playing time and/or a multitude of other factors.  Although not all athletes were created equal in ability, the best coaches realize that each athlete has something of value to add to the process in one way or another.  The goal is find the value and use it for the betterment of the individual first and the team second.  


How do I define success?

Northwest Ohio is one the greatest areas in Ohio for high school sports.  Schools, fans and communities rally around the high school sports teams.  The stress of winning has slowly started to filter down from the pro level to the college level and even to the high school level.  Gone are the days of coaches coaching in one school for 20-30 years.  You now see college coaches fired during the season, which was unheard of in the 1980’s.  The turnover at the high school level is at an all time high.  While I can’t say the turnover is entirely due to the pressure to win, it certainly has an effect.  As I stated earlier,  our coaches plan, prepare and practice to win, but it is not our purpose.   If our focus remains that our successes are a part of a process to transform lives, everything else will take care of itself.  The great coach John Wooden said it this way, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”


The Inside Out Initiative at Wapakoneta is in its infancy stages.  While some of our coaches have no knowledge of the program at all, I truly feel that our coaches all want to transform lives and they truly care about student-athletes, their families, and our community.  I am proud to be a part of what our Wapakoneta coaches are doing with our student-athletes.  


Go Redskins


Brad Rex

Athletic Administrator

Wapakoneta City Schools


What are we Building at the Football Field and Why?


I’m sure most people are aware that there has been construction going on at the football field throughout the summer, and we are excited to have what will be a facility to provide our students with additional and improved experiences from an extra-curricular perspective.  That building, first and foremost, is designed to be a wrestling practice facility for our very successful wrestling teams.


Over the years, the wrestlers have practiced in the high school in what we call the upper gym.  Various other groups, mostly sports teams, find themselves competing for that space, which becomes cumbersome.  Due to the nature of wrestling, their mats need to be cleaned daily, and any disruption of these mats require a re-cleaning of the mats, resulting in the loss of practice time.  The space was also used by indoor track and all levels of the baseball and softball teams. It was simply not fair to all the parties involved to have them continually fight over the same space during the same seasons.  An additional wrestling room has been on our wish list for many years, but it has never reached the top of the priority list or had the funding match the desire to build this building…until now.


So, how are we paying for this building?  


During the construction project that occurred in 2007 and 2008, we worked with the State of Ohio to build two new elementary buildings and renovate the middle school and high school, for a project total of $63 million.  About fifty percent of that $63 million was very generously provided to us by the taxpayers of the Wapakoneta City Schools.  When construction projects are completed, school districts in the state of Ohio need to “settle up,” so to speak.  That is a very long process, and in fact, it did not happen until about a year ago when we were finally able to reconcile the results of the building project with the State of Ohio.  It is not uncommon for school districts to owe the state additional dollars when that process is done, nor is it uncommon for school districts to have money left over.  We were fortunate to have money remaining from the interest earned on our local dollars that we were holding onto until the project closed to determine if we owed the state any money.  Since we did not owe the state any money, that resulted in our having about $900,000 in interest earned that we could only use for permanent improvement.  If you do not know, permanent improvement dollars are dollars that can typically be used for things like buildings, books, and buses.  This fund surplus provided us with the opportunity to construct the wrestling practice facility at the football field.  


Why is it at the football field?


We looked at many options and worked with many different people, including the Board of Education, wrestling coaches, supporters of wrestling, and also the athletic boosters to determine the best options during the planning phase.  Placing the structure at the high school was considered.  However, when we combined that with the need for us to have an additional locker room space at the football facility for other athletic events, like football and track, we decided that the best and most economical use of our dollars was to place it at the football field.  


We are excited to provide improved facilities for not only the wrestlers, but all of our athletic teams, an opportunity to either have new space or space in which they no longer have to compete for practice time.

Local and National Mental Health Resources

There are certainly challenging times for every person as they travel through life, but it is most difficult for adolescents who are learning, growing, and forming their long-term attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions.  Spring appears to be a difficult time of year for adolescents.  We are kind of in the “dog days” of the school year and many relationships are formed, and/or perhaps damaged, as the year progresses.  All of these variables impact the emotional health of our students. As parents and adults working with adolescents, we can be critical to guiding and supporting these students through this part of their lives.

Being a teenager today is extremely difficult, in my mind–probably more difficult than when most of the moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas of today grew up.  If I could point to one reason for this more complex time in their lives, it would be the introduction of social media, which is here to stay, but needs to be managed in a positive way.  Still, teenagers most typically want to belong and are trying to handle expectations from home, school, a job, a coach, and/or experiencing deep disappointment for the first time. Teenagers may have an initial vision in their mind of what they believe their life should look like and can quickly become discouraged as they progress through high school and begin to face their first life challenges….not to mention the cultural pressures that are inside each high school, circle of friends, town, and within social media.

My blog today is to share additional resources for parents and students.  While we strive to form meaningful relationships with students, our training and our role is focused on educating students. We are professionally trained from an educational perspective rather than a mental health perspective, which is why it is important to have these additional resources available to you outside of the school setting.  These resources are listed below, but are also on our website under the tab “Family Resources” at both the Wapakoneta High School and the web addresses. I encourage you to become familiar with them if needed.

State and National Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  


Crisis Text Line:

Text your message to: 741-741

Local Resources:

If you are in crisis or need assistance including suicide prevention, call 1-800-567-4673 (Hope) or text to 741741

Summary of Programs from the local Mental Health Board can be found:

Youth Mental Health Agency:

Adult Mental Health Agency:

Sometimes, as parents, we need additional help. I hope you find these resources beneficial during those times.

Keith Horner, Superintendent

Stop the testing madness for your kids and restore local control!

The short description below was written by fellow Superintendent Bob Humble from Fairbanks and is being shared throughout Ohio as Superintendents across Ohio are tired of over-testing our student and your kids. We need your help on this issue!

In 2016 the federal government finally got around to passing a new law designed to replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).    The new legislation, The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is designed to provide new flexibility to the states.  It requires that states across the nation submit plans for implementation of the federal rules to the US Department of Education this spring.  The new law is structured such that learning and testing decisions are returned to the states and even local districts. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) had many meetings across the state to hear from people about how the new state plan should look.  Over and over, at those sessions, participants urged the ODE to reduce the amount of state testing – a change that is allowable in the new federal law.    Recently, Ohio officials released a draft of their plan.   Disappointingly, the Ohio does not reduce testing at all.  In fact, it maintains current levels of testing, failing to hear the urgent and overwhelming advice of the people of the state.   If you, like me, are outraged by the ongoing test and punish philosophy in our state, I urge you to go to to read the proposed plan.  Then, add your comment here to tell the plan designers to follow the minimum requirements set forth by the federal government.

Of course, contacting our legislators is also a great way to voice your concerns.  Representative Keith Faber can be reached by email at: Representative Craig Riedel can be reached by email at: Representative Bob Cupp can be reached at: Senator Cliff Hite  can be reached by email at: Senator Matt Huffman can be reached at

This is a golden opportunity to get local control back into our schools.  I urge you to join me in calling on Ohio’s leaders to step forward and enact common sense reform for the benefit of Ohio’s public school children.

Thank you for your help.

Thank a School Board Member!

January is School Board Appreciation Month and we are very blessed to have a consistent school board that is loaded with common-sense thinking.  


I believe that any person who previously served on the school board in the past or is currently serving on the school board will tell you that there are many more variables involved in a school system than they expected or were aware of prior to becoming a school board member.  That makes the job rewarding, challenging, frustrating, and extremely important.  The five individuals who serve the Wapakoneta City School Board deserve recognition, as they have led the charge in many different areas, including the fact that they want to, first, always serve children, and second, consistently make Wapakoneta City Schools better.  


Our current school board consists of the following: Brent Schwartz, Ron Mertz, Josh Little, Willie Sammetinger, and Patrick Gibson. If you have a moment, please take time to thank a school board member, past and present, in recognition of School Board Appreciation Month. In fact, take time to thank any public official who is agreeing to serve, as all of these positions are complex and thankless.  
Keith Horner, Superintendent

Lessons Learned from the Stop Common Core Movement


Lessons Learned from the Stop Common Core Movement

It was not long ago that you were seeing, and you can occasionally still see, a “Stop Common Core” sign.   The Stop Common Core movement was a grassroots movement that created a great deal of passion and enthusiasm surrounding the implementation of a national curriculum and testing system.  One of the many initial goals was to ensure that students who were transient would receive the same content as they moved from district to district and state to state.

The involvement of the federal government’s Race to the Top initiative incentivized states and school districts to adopt this Common Core curriculum and complicated the initiative. These were financial incentives that the Federal Government financed, essentially creating a federally mandated curriculum that schools really had no choice but to adopt.

This grassroots movement to stop the Common Core proved to be very effective, as the Ohio legislature not only dramatically reduced the amount of overtesting that was taking place in school districts, but they also mandated that the curriculum standards be rewritten, and that process is underway.  

The important part about this is that the majority of people communicating with our legislators were concerned citizens and not professional educators. They worked tirelessly to stop the implementation of a nationalized curriculum and the over testing of our students.  

As a result of this movement, superintendents across Ohio learned that it is not enough to be the only voices talking to legislators about educational issues. As a result, school superintendents in west central Ohio and across the state have organized to work more closely with legislators, in a respectful and helpful manner.  When our efforts don’t work, we would like use the model that the Stop Common Core movement used. By informing and requesting help from parents and community members to discuss educational issues with their local legislators, we hope to have more local control of our educational decisions.  

In the future, there may be occasions that I request our community’s help. We need your voices to be heard on educational issues that simply don’t make sense, like the mandated overtesting of students.

In an effort to communicate more, I’m also introducing my blog that will be shared via our notification system and posted on our website at Not all of these post will be requests for help.  In fact, that may be infrequent.  Many may be simply communications about various issues, events, activities, or bragging items that we would like to share with you.  However, when I need your help, I will attempt to ask directly and provide you with enough information on an issue for you to be well informed.  

Keith Horner, Superintendent