Westerville News & Public Opinion

McClellan says goodbye to district after 23 years

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Director of Curriculum Karen McClellan during an interview in the school district administration offices June 19. She retires effective June 30.

Karen McClellan has seen a lot of changes in the Westerville City School District during the last 23 years, as she served time as teacher, principal and, eventually, district administrator.

Many of those changes she helped to bring about.

McClellan will retire at the end of this month from her post as chief academic officer.

"It's just so bittersweet," McClellan said of her retirement.

McClellan began her career with the district in 1990 as a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Heritage Middle School.

The next year, she was asked to split her time between teaching at the school and serving as its assistant principal.

"Those were interesting times. I would be instructing my class, and a teacher would knock on the door and want help with a discipline problem," McClellan said.

She moved on to serve as principal of Hawthorne Elementary for a year before spending a nine-year stint as principal of Robert Frost Elementary School.

"It was a great nine years," McClellan said.

McClellan's next role was one she said she is proudest of.

In 2002, she was asked by then-Superintendent George Tombaugh to lead the opening of Fouse Elementary School.

"I truly enjoyed that experience of being able to collectively develop a school community," McClellan said. "That was truly one of the capstone moments of my career."

In 2008, McClellan was invited to join the district's director of elementary affairs, overseeing elementary academic programming.

Three years ago, she took the district's top academic post.

In her role, she's helped the district look to institute new state requirements, such as the Common Core curriculum and the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee.

She helped open the Early Learning Center to house the district's preschool program two years ago, along with the Academic Enrichment Center, which provides alternative educational options to high-school students.

She's also seen district achievement increase every year, as the district continued to earn the state's top "Excellent with Distinction" rating.

"I'm very proud of that, as should everyone be," McClellan said. "It's a collective; it's not one person's accomplishment."

McClellan said she's loved the fast-paced environment of the district's administrative office, along with the diversity of issues she gets to have a hand in.

"This district is just so dynamic, and there are so many things going on," McClellan said. "It is a face-paced environment, and I will miss that."

Overall, McClellan, a German Village resident, said it's the people who led her to spend the majority of her career in Westerville after a seven-year stint as a teacher in Lexington, Ky.

"It's the families and the students and the staff," McClellan said. "It's been very rewarding and very challenging."

For now, McClellan said she has no retirement plans other than enjoying the rest of summer spending time at her house on Buckeye Lake.

She said she knows that she'll feel the pull back to education before long.

"There will be a day, probably when the leaves start to fall, that I'll want to do something again to contribute to the lives of students," McClellan said.