Larry Zimmerman attended his last school board meeting Jan 26 as superintendent of the Marysville Exempted Village School District.

Larry Zimmerman attended his last school board meeting Jan 26 as superintendent of the Marysville Exempted Village School District.

After 15 years as superintendent and 40 years of service to the district, Zimmerman will retire at the end of the month.

"It's definitely with mixed feelings and mixed emotions, but it's the right thing for me to do," he said. "I want fewer public meetings. I want fewer levies. You know, you just take a look at all the kinds of things we've done and it takes a lot of time away from your family."

As the days pass en route to his final day in the superintendent's office, he calls the experience "surreal."

"As superintendent, you're on 24/7, whether you're at church or whatever," he said. "I had a property offer (for the district) at church. Those kinds of things just happen. Wherever you are, you're still the superintendent"

But he said he would not trade the experience.

"Most people don't stay in one community as long as I have," he said. "I'm a rare bird - no question - whether that's good or bad. It gives me a unique perspective, a long-time perspective of what's occurred, what Marysville is like, what it was like then. I have a sense of community that I think few have."

He can remember his first day with the district as a middle school teacher.

"I had 37 to 38 kids in each of my classrooms," he recalled. "I didn't have enough textbooks for everybody. I had a little over 180 kids during the day. I remember that day. I remember sorting it out, figuring it out and realizing we're going to have to organize into teams and go about it a tad bit different way."

Zimmerman said it was fun and he enjoyed teaching middle school.

"If I were to go back to teaching, that's where I would go," he said. "I love the energy."

In 1976, the state of Ohio moved toward the first state testing, which meant all school districts had to write a curriculum plan called "a scope and sequence" that outlined what each grade level was going to teach and when. Zimmerman said at that time, he was a guidance counselor at the middle school - the youngest in the district.

"They threw the testing at me," he said. "I think because I, as the youngest and dumbest, they threw it at me. But out of that testing there came data, and that data kind of evolved."

In 1977, he was asked to be the first director of curriculum for the district and made the move from the classroom to administration.

Since 1997, the Marysville district has grown by 2,000 students. It has built five new buildings and added on to the high school twice.

"On top of that, we've had the Columbine shootings, which changed the design of all our buildings," he said. "We put up cubicles and made them safer. We put surveillance in the buildings. No one ever thought you would lock the doors to school buildings. No one thought you would set up airtight areas where everybody has to go by somebody in order to get in your building."

Zimmerman said over the years, politics have taken a toll on the school district and he is vocal about the effects of the Statehouse on the district.

"Marysville's probably the most impacted community in the state of Ohio with every tax law they've changed since 2005," he said. "We lost 30 percent of everything that's taxable. And it impacted the bond issues, the debt on buildings that were already built."

Zimmerman said the state of Ohio did it to pay its own bills.

"They took the money out of their communities to right their ship and said, 'OK, communities, you need to figure it out. Because we don't want to run around and tell everybody that we have to charge more taxes or put on more taxes at the state level, so we'll let you do it.' It was a tax grab - nothing short of that."

He thinks if the average taxpayer truly understood the impact the state administration has had on the district, there would be an uprising.

"They'd be throwing tea in Mill Creek," he said. "It's one of the biggest frustrations that I have as I leave this job. I've screamed and hollered and I know I've made some people angry at me.

"It was wrong for the community and it was wrong for the school district. And I was advocating for the community and the school district."

Zimmerman said he will remain an advocate for the community in one way or another.

The years have left him with a lot of good memories, including the district's excellent with distinction ratings on the state report card, designing the intermediate school, designing the Creekview and Bunsold buildings and the expansions to the high school building.

"I remember drawing it on the back of a napkin at a meeting and drinking coffee with the architect and that's what the design became," he said.

But the memories he will treasure most are from graduation day.

"You can't believe what kids say to you on graduation," Zimmerman said. "It's the most pure and genuine you ever see kids. They walk across and they're so proud. I can't describe graduation day. It's an amazing experience."

As he prepares to leave office, Zimmerman said the No. 1 thing the district has to do is stabilize funding.

"The state of Ohio has not been kind," he said. "The last governor's budget was incredibly difficult. That is the No. 1 thing I see this district has to do; otherwise, we're just going to go down a downward spiral of reduction, reduction, reduction."

Zimmerman said he is comfortable with what the district has accomplished and with its academic preparedness.

"The base is set," he said. "You've got the curriculum here, the right teachers; the instruction in this district is amazing - great teachers, great attitudes, working for the kids to get the kids to the finish line. The standards are high and in order to keep it there, we're going to have to figure out funding. The state still has to figure out funding. We're way too reliant on property taxes. There's got to be another way."

Zimmerman said he wants students to continue to improve because hey are no longer competing against their neighbor but the whole world in today's global economy.

"We could teach them a lot of stuff but what they really need to do in the future is to continue to learn," he said. "Hopefully, I've never stopped being a teacher. Even when I explain things, hopefully the teacher comes out in me. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the classroom. I enjoyed the sense of humor the kids have. I still see myself as a teacher."

The district has already made plans to bring him back on an as-needed basis in the future.

Retirement for Zimmerman doesn't mean a lack of activity.

"I've got to do something else," he said. "You can't have as much electricity flowing through you and as much action as I've had and just stop. It's not the way I'm made. It's not the way I grew up.

"I've got to do something else. But it's going to have fewer public meetings. I'm going to chew my tongue less."