A New Home At EKHS
Hello East Knox! Hello parents, alumni, and just plain friends of EKHS! I'm one of the new guys in your community trying to make a difference in student lives and our H.S. After several months of getting to know students, putting faces to names and names to faces, getting to know teachers and highly-qualified staff, I'm starting to feel at home. I pledge only the best effort by all of us ( principal, faculty, loyal staff ) who are entrusted to help students grow and develop into young men and women prepared for life after high school. Oh yes, allow me to introduce myself, I am Don Sullivan and I was hoping you may want to know something about me, some of my life, and a little of my career.
Once upon a time (a really, really long time ago) Billy Sullivan and Bernice Carey met at school in Frankfort, Ohio. A year later they would be married on August 1st, 1947. Over the next ten years the young couple would have five children. I was fortunate to be one of them. The Sullivan family made rural southern Ohio their home in Ross County. But one January day in 1957, Bill and Bernice packed their belongings, their five young children, and moved to the city of Chillicothe, Ohio's first and third capital city. (Great grandmother Bernice still lives at that home today). That's where I grew up. In a neighborhood where the kids played hide and seek, rode their bikes, pretended to be cowboys, slept out on summer nights, and played baseball till dark. I attended school at Mt. Logan Elementary and Jr. High on the east side of town. I have vivid memories of friends and the kind of things school children did during those years. But Birthdays came and went, and eventually I was in HS, Chillicothe HS, home of the Cavaliers! I spent those years like most students going to classes and playing sports after school. I won 3 varsity letters for basketball and baseball, earned my diploma, and graduated. It was 1968, just one year before men would walk on the moon. I would never walk on the moon, but I did walk away from my home town for Westerville, Ohio. Westerville is the home of Otterbein College where I spent the next four years growing-up ( just a little bit ).
My collegiate years were better known as the era of hippies, Viet Nam, soul music, and LBJ in the White House. But Wm and Bernice's second child spent those years enhancing his education, playing college basketball, and enjoying college life. I was majoring in education with the hope of becoming a teacher some day. My inspiration to be an educator came from former teachers and coaches. My dad offered further motivation. "Don't mess-up this opportunity young man!" Dad was proud that I'd be the first Sullivan family member to earn a college degree. Never did I want to disappoint my father! And so it was that I would graduate from Otterbein College, in June 1972, with diploma in hand. And too, my athletic career came to an end with 4 varsity letters in the other hand. Yes, my basketball playing days were over, but I owed so much to the sport, my coaches, and my teammates. The many, many hours I devoted to the game ultimately rewarded me with a college education, a certificate to teach, and many life-time friends. But now it was time to become a proud member of the working class. All I needed was a school willing to take a chance on me.
It was the decade of the 70's, the Viet Nam war had ended, Watergate was on the horizon with Richard Nixon as our President. The early part of the decade was a time when it was especially challenging for education graduates to land their first position. It was typical to begin your career as a substitute teacher. And that was how I began. I worked all of the 72-73 school year teaching 7th & 8th grade Health and Science for Worthington City Schools. The teacher holding a contract for the position would return the next school year. I would spend 73-74 as a "permanent" sub for Columbus City. Those two years would solidify my determination to land a teaching position somewhere in these United States. Those two years could not have been more different. I went from an affluent community at Worthington where students came to school every day eager to learn when compared to their peers in Columbus City. However, I grew more professionally from my experiences in the urban school district. In the Columbus City Schools I would encounter so many of the experiences with students that shaped my collective attitude about teaching. So many of the students were burdened with problems of some sort that it was a challenge to teach in manner that we were prepared for. One had to empathize with the students for the "baggage" they carried to school each day. The challenge was to find a way to connect with the students, and capture their attention. Then, and only then, one could teach. I learned that subject matter was not as important as the kids. But I still needed a permanent position, and two years of subbing was not paying the bills.
It was late August, 1974, and still no job to call my own. And then, Northridge Schools in Licking Co. called me to say they needed an elementary PE teacher just a few days before the start of the 1974-75 school year. "Where's Northridge," I asked. "Who cares?" And, as they say, "the rest is history." After three years of interviews trying to get a job, Northridge calls to offer me one! It was meant to be! How else can one explain it? I accepted the position. I was gonna be in Licking County for one year and find something better closer to civilization. But I really enjoyed the students, my colleagues, and the community. I grew to love my job of teaching gym to small children and coaching older and bigger children, and I even grew to love rural life. I HAD FOUND A NEW HOME!
And for the next 31 years the Northridge would provide me the opportunity to influence the lives of students just as my teachers had done for me. I taught Gym, Health, Life & Physical Science (15 yrs.); I coached basketball, baseball, & football (11yrs.); Administratively, I served as athletic director( 10yrs.), HS Principal (11 yrs.), and Supt. (5 yrs.). I had a lifetime of memories that I still treasure. I met thousands of students and their parents. I worked side-by-side with some of the most dedicated and exceptional educators, administrators, board members, and the professional staff of custodians, cooks, teacher aides, secretaries, and bus drivers. Never will I forget my time at Northridge. But after spending the final 15 years as an administrator, I was tired! And retirement was an option. I could use the time off to recapture my energy and enthusiasm for teaching. The thought of resuming my career after some much needed time off was appealing. So, in 2005, I retired from Northridge after 31 years.
Retirement didn't last long. Within 6 months I was back playing principal, or teaching in a classroom. Schools were calling me to fill their substitute positions. I had come full-circle. Back to the start and the beginning of my educational career as a substitute teacher. The next 7 years could be called my semi-retirement years, or part-time educator depending on your point of view. More often than not, these were long-term assignments from 3 weeks to 7 months. I taught every subject area except math ( for very good reasons ) and I was a principal at every level, elementary, middle school, and high school. During the 2011-12 school year I finished the school year as a middle school principal for Southwest Licking. The seven-month assignment was significant for one reason, I decided to look for a full-time position again. But a full-time position in Knox County found me!
On a late July evening the East Knox Local Schools wanted to talk to me about open administrative positions in the district. And a day later off to Howard, Ohio, I went to meet with Board of Education members . "Where's Howard, I thought the HS was in Bladensburg." Well, I found Howard, and after a lengthy discussion I was offered a position as HS principal. Two seconds later, I said YES! I was a BULLDOG! I was no longer semi-retired. And I found a new home in Howard, Ohio! It's a home that
I really, really like! I'm here for one year, perhaps more, and my goal is to leave East Knox HS a better school. That's a very tough assignment because I've found a school that already has an EXCELLENT academic rating. Well, let me say this, there are hundreds of small ways beyond the academic realm that makes a school truly GREAT. Sooooooo......TIME FOR ME TO GET TO WORK!