Mankins' first year as Marysville superintendent was one of change
With a year under her belt as superintendent of Marysville schools, Diane Mankins says she's looking ahead and is pleased with what she sees.
"We started the year talking about change and this was ... a year of significant change for us. That's exactly how it turned out," she said.
In addition to new Ohio learning standards and new teacher and principal evaluations, Mankins had to deal with a less-than-positive economic outlook as soon as she became superintendent.
"Coming in the door, I could see the financial picture. I had talked with the board and it wasn't a matter of if we needed money, it was a matter of when are we going on the ballot," she said.
Mankins stepped into her new position in July 2012; the school board placed a 4-mill levy request on the ballot in November that was rejected by voters.
Parents were not happy and said so at the December school board meeting. More than 300 residents showed up to complain about a reduction-in-force plan that cut dozens of jobs. They also complained about a lack of communication going into the November election.
District officials then launched a massive campaign for a 9-mill continuous levy to replace two existing levies in May. It passed by nearly 70 percent.
"Any time you're in a leadership role, you know there's going to be tough times," Mankins said. "There were tough conversations and tears. At the end of the day, we made it through together.
"My task is really to look at the whole and try to set up a system that operates efficiently and allows us to create as many opportunities with kids as we can," she said. "That's difficult to do with a dwindling budget. It's hard to balance all that."
Highlights for Mankins over the last year include seeing principals talk about the growth and learning in each of their buildings at the monthly school board meetings.
As the new school year starts, Mankins said the district is focused on the right things.
"We talked on opening day about building and designing innovative learning for students and what that looks like, shifting to a different kind of teacher practice and maintaining a focus on the main thing.
"The main thing is teaching and learning," Mankins said. "Marysville is interested in being the destination school district."
As new standards and evaluation measures are put in place, she acknowledges it is a tough time to be in education.
"I think people are coming on board ... Some of the change is just happening whether you want it to or not," she said. "Those people who are ready are going to jump on and move forward with us. It takes others longer. Some people want to sit back and see if it works first."