Westerville News & Public Opinion

Kellogg wants focus on students' potential

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John Kellogg became superintendent of the Westerville City School District July 1.

The years spent as a distance runner and coach strongly influenced incoming Westerville City Schools Superintendent John Kellogg's approach to education and leadership: Focus on what people are capable of and make the conditions right to help them reach that potential.

"You don't take a kid's top five-mile times and average them," Kellogg said. "You look at his best time and say, that's his potential."

In other words, Kellogg said, you have to look at the exceptional things people do not as exceptions, but as what can be accomplished.

"We sometimes underestimate what people can do, and we put a ceiling on it," Kellogg said. "There are examples of all kinds of outliers of people exceeding expectations.

"We should view those as possibilities, not as anomalies."

As the leader of the district, that means finding ways to remove the barriers to success, for students and staff members alike, making it easier for them to be as successful as possible.

Kellogg, 51, assumed the post of Westerville City School District superintendent July 1.

Kellogg came to the district from South-Western City Schools, where he was assistant superintendent of curriculum.

He also served as principal of Grove City High School from 1997 to 2002, and as principal of Bexley High School from 2002 to 2010.

His time as a building principal taught him that a large part of helping students reach their potential has to do with the daily interactions they have in the classrooms with their teachers.

When parents sit down with their children at night and ask about school, the children should have a positive experience to report, Kellogg said.

"We need to create that kind of environment for our kids," Kellogg said.

South-Western City Schools took on that philosophy and saw positive results, Kellogg said.

"They're always thinking about that ground-floor experience, and that's a difference maker," he said.

Kellogg said he is aware of the more specific challenges the Westerville City School District has to face, including instituting state policy changes such as the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee, the Common Core curriculum and the calculation of district report-card ratings, and facing recent district debates such as elementary school attendance boundary realignment and the fate of the magnet schools.

The first step in dealing with the big issues will be to create a new strategic plan for the district, Kellogg said.

The district last went through the strategic-planning process five years ago, when retired Superintendent Dan Good, who now is serving as interim superintendent of Columbus City Schools, came to the district.

"The board (of education) has indicated that the time is right for a new five-year plan," Kellogg said.

Creating a plan will help the district to identify issues that are a priority and help in making decisions because district leaders will understand where the district is headed, Kellogg said.

"The idea of a strategic plan gives you the opportunity to collect up all those issues ... and 'umbrella' them," he said. "I think it's going to come organically through that process where we want to be."

In the meantime, Kellogg said he is working to get to know the district.

"A lot of it has just been about sitting down with people, getting to know the organization," Kellogg said.

In introducing himself to the district, Kellogg said there's not much to know.

"I'm not that complicated of a person," Kellogg said.

He's passionate about his family: wife Kim; daughter Erin, 20; and son Ian, 17.

He's also very active in the community, something he said is natural for someone in public education.

"Being in education is a lifestyle commitment," Kellogg said.