This is an interview with Dick Rezek, former Superintendent of Schools of Jackson Milton High School.
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Q: Dick, one of the first questions that I had, is if you could give us a quick background of your childhood interests, development, maybe, where you went to school, college. Just a kind of brief overview of what took you from birth to superintendency.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, I went to a school called Wood Street Elementary School, which was part of Youngstown Public School System and I went there for eight years as it was right across the street from where I lived on the lower East side. Summit Avenue is where I grew up, which was a fairly nice neighborhood in those days. From Wood Street School, I went to East High School for one year, because that was normal transition, students from Wood Street would go to East High School. In between all that time, for a lot of years, I played a lot of basketball in a place called the Crist Mission, which is not an unfamiliar name. I happened to get on a pretty good team down there where we had an excellent coach, a guy by the name of Regis Reddington, who is still alive today, and through his efforts, three of the team members were sort of offered a scholarship to Ursuline High School. And, after one year at East, then I did take that opportunity to go to Ursuline. We couldn't afford the tuition back in those days, Joe, it was forty dollars a year.
Q: I think I had a scholarship offered to me to go to Ursuline for football, and you talk about you couldn't afford the tuition, I couldn't afford the books and transportation, so I didn't go.
A: Well, this was a full scholarship. The transportation was - we walked to school - from where I lived on Summit Avenue. I can say that was one of the times in my life where my life took a big change, because I had been the kind of a guy that we always we went to church. We went to St. Marion's up on Wilson Avenue, it's a Maronite church. And then, going to Ursuline and getting exposure of a different kind then I was use to, not only religion, but good educational facilities. At Ursuline, I played football and basketball and was on the track team there, and had a good experience. I enjoyed every bit of it, you know. It was real nice, and I am looking at John here, and the only thing I really dreaded was the years we played Campbell Memorial in football, because the Red Devils were really vicious people in those days.
Q: That's because they didn't know how old the players were, Dick. Those guys were old.
A: I'm glad to hear that because, after all these years, it gives me a reason why we lost every game we played.
Q: That's what everybody use to say.
A: Then, from Ursuline, I got sort of a partial scholarship to Heidelberg College, which was kind of odd, because I had gone to a Catholic High School and was going to an Evangelical Reform college, but that was another major event in my life. I got away from home, not that I was pressed to do that, but it was an opportunity to get out and meet new people, and I enjoyed the years that I spent at Heidelberg. In my Junior year, because it was during the Korean War, I got drafted into the Army, and so I left after my Junior year on my birthday, as a matter of fact, September 18, 1952, to go into the service. I spent two years in the Army, and that was a good experience too I guess in a way, just reviewing it, a lot of these things were just good; they helped build a lot of different aspects of the kind of person that I eventually became. I spent fourteen months in Germany, and then got discharged in `54, went back to Heidelberg. I got discharged in September and went right back to Heidelberg and graduated in `55, and then from Heidelberg, I got a teaching job at Ursuline High School, which was a very good experience. I'm sure if you talk to a lot of first people that had been in education. I got that job for three thousand dollars a year. I was coaching three sports, assistant in football, freshman basketball coach, and head tennis coach, and I got a hundred dollars each for each of those assignments. Three hundred dollars, plus the three, I was making thirty-three hundred dollars, which was the most money I had made in my life because in the service we were getting paid a hundred and ten dollars a month. I was happy to go back to Ursuline. I was still single, living at home, and the thing about Ursuline, that is where I met my wife. Mary Ann had been a secretary there, and we developed a good relationship and eventually got married four years after I had been at Ursuline. Then, when I got married, and I'm sure you guys know, nobody lives on three thousand, because when I left Ursuline, I was making thirty-eight hundred, from thirty-three to thirty-eight, and I was still coaching three sports, but we had these big increments of a hundred dollars a year that started taken me up there. So, from there I went to North Lima. I went as an assistant football coach to a former friend of mine from Ursuline, Jack Pierson. Jack left that summer to go to McDonald High School as the head football coach, and I ended up being the head football coach in North Lima, even though I planned to go there to be an assistant. And that salary was really big, because it went up to fifty-eight hundred dollars, they even gave me credit for my service time in the Army. Now, almost doubling my salary, I didn't know how to react to it. Of course doubling a salary to fifty-eight hundred compared to the labor market in those days, when things were starting getting a little bit better, was an improvement. From Ursuline to North Lima, I spent eleven years at North Lima and then some good friends of mine were administrators in the Jackson Milton Schools, and they were people I had taught with in North Lima and other places, and they talked to me about being assistant principal and athletic director at Jackson Milton. I had coached eleven years and was about ready to make a move. As a matter fact, Joe, you know we were at North Lima together a lot of those years. It was a great school system. There is never anything I could ever say against it, other than I enjoyed that experience too. My four children were born during the years I taught at North Lima, which later consolidated to become South Range. Anyway, I went to Jackson Milton in 1970, as assistant high school principal to a good friend of mine, Les Harris, and another good friend of mine was there, Jim Traveline, and a fellow I had gone to Heidelberg College with was the superintendent, that was Bob Winterburn. I was really looking forward to that, because they were all people I respected, and Bob and I played football together at Heidelberg, and I had a good relationship with him. We were both in the same society, so to speak, which was called the fraternity, but we had know each other very well. Before I had got to Jackson Milton, Jim Traveline left and went to Springfield Local, as a high school principal, and the fellow they brought in was another good friend of mine, Jack Carney, who was a student of mine at Ursuline, and he came in to be the elementary principal. The second year I was at Jackson Milton, Bob Winterburn went back to Fitch to become a high school principal, and I was approached by several Board members, wanting to know if I would be interested in becoming superintendent. My total administrative experience at that time, was one year as assistant high school principal and I was prepared to put in the time, you know, to become assistant, then high school principal, then whatever happened. But, I just couldn't take a chance of turning the job down, at least the opportunity to become the superintendent, so as things would have it, I did get interviewed by the Board, and I was fortunate enough to be selected. So, that second year there, I became the Superintendent of Jackson Milton Schools, and I worked at that position until my retirement for nineteen years and retired in 1990. I'm not sure if that is the total answer to the question, but if you have anything else.
Q: That's a good answer to the question. In the time you were superintendent, I knew you quite well, but anybody who would listen to this interview would wonder what did you do to get your principals, or your teachers to do some of the things that needed to be done. Was there any kind of a motivating factor you used or motivational method?
A: That's a tough question to answer, in a short period of time. One of the things I had to rely on in taking over as superintendent, was you always go on your past experiences. I had taught for fifteen years and had been an administrator for one year, and now I was superintendent, so the bulk of my experience was as a teacher. What I committed myself to do was try to think of the things that were difficult for me as a teacher, that were weak by administrators and try to do just the opposite, if I could. You know, at North Lima we had, I thought, a very effective administrator, in Larry Snapp. And I didn't intend to copy him, except in some of the things that he did as far as, I thought he was always up to date, he was an effective communicator, he never let you have any doubt about where he stood on anything, because he would read the riot act to you if he thought the staff wasn't doing what they should be doing. So, when I ended up at Jackson Milton as superintendent, my first goal was to patch up some problems that I didn't want to develop with a good friend of mine, that was the high school principal, Les Harris, who had been there for a few years and was overlooked for the job, either intentionally or unintentionally, and a person who had been there just one year, was put in above him. And so, because I felt then, as I do now, that the right arm of any superintendent would be his administrators that are working with him. And so Les and I became closer friends after I took the job of superintendent, because we worked hard at that. I didn't wait for him to read it in the paper that I was going to be superintendent. I went to his house and we sat down and talked, and he was emotional about it, but there were some things that came out of it that were very positive. One of the things that helped me get the job of superintendent was the job as athletic director, because it put me in front of a lot of people. I spoke to a lot of groups and all the games we went to, they all had positive effect because it was the kind of school system, as many are today, success in the classroom sometimes are not measured as highly as success in extra-curricular activities. I was a good disciplinarian and that helped me too at Jackson Milton. Les had a little different type of reputation. He was more laid back than I was. I wasn't flamboyant, but I was pretty direct. So one of the big things I did was try to patch fences with him, and Les and I became good friends, and he ended up getting a job as assistant superintendent of Richmond Heights about three or fours years after I had been at Jackson Milton. And, we got Les to go to basketball, football games. He got involved in helping to build the bleachers. People found out there was a different side to him. You remember how tall Les was, Joe, six foot five. He was just an opposing solid figure. He didn't articulate too much, because I think he was always defensive, but he changed a lot in those four years. Now, the teachers, that was where I felt I could have a good impact, because I just finished being a teacher, and I tried to treat them as I wanted to be treated with dignity, respect their opinions, and when necessary, to do the harsh things that the job called for. One of the ways that we did that was we tried to give memos out, we tried to keep teachers informed, and tried to do the best job we could in having an open-door policy, where the door was open, but not make people afraid to come in. The door is always open, but if no one would come in, it's worthless, if they are afraid of the group that is sitting inside at the desk. As you know Joe, I didn't socialize with a lot with teachers. I never went to the faculty room unless it was on a mission where I had to get a message to somebody. I ate by myself and a lot of things like that. Because when superintendents use to come in the faculty room, when I was teaching, the whole conversation was awkward. We weren't trying to impress him, but you know, it was one of those things, that when he came to eat with us in the lunch room, I didn't like that. Because we'd have a lot of things we wanted to talked about as coaches or teachers, and of course, ninety percent was about the lousy job the administrators were doing and they inhibited our conversations. You hated like heck to go to the bathroom, when there is a superintendent sitting in the faculty lounge. A lot of little things like that. I'm not ever convinced that the suspicions that exist between teachers and administrators, between the custodial staff and the administration, between the bus drivers, all non-certificated people, because it is a lot different job than just establishing relationships with teachers, there is a whole non-certificated staff that you have to be careful, because their feelings are hurt so easily if they are not commended or they are not receiving the same kind of comments that you might give to an excellent science teacher or English teacher or a thing of that type. Another thing I thought we did a pretty good job of, over the years, was I think we developed a pretty good evaluation system for teachers, and I thought the one I had for administrators, which was developed over a number of years, setting targets and goals, was effective. You have to be consistent with everybody. If you stop and talk to a teacher, you got to stop and talk to a custodian. If you stop and talk to a student, then you better make sure you have time to talk to everybody that is involved. I get an excellent charge out of our superintendent in Youngstown, because he goes to visit a classroom and it makes front pages. Part of our job at Jackson Milton was every morning, we wouldn't visit, we just would go to a school and never bother anybody unless a teacher wanted to come in and say hello or wanted to say something.
Q: Whenever you had to hire a new principal, teacher, coach, did you have any kind of a theory as to what you were looking for? Did you feel like a head coach for football or basketball? Did you ever feel that there was something special you looked for as far as a leadership quality for that kind of a position?
A: Certainly Joe, that would be one of the things that I developed, I think, over a period of time, when we first began to take on the responsibility. I was going to use the word awesome, but I don't want to be to melodramatic. But the two toughest parts of being superintendent was hiring people, and if they didn't work out, was letting them know you had to let them go. If you can't do those two parts of the job, you can't hire the right people, at least in your mind, for the position, and then if you don't have the courage to let that person know that you just can't continue the relationship. To disgress a little bit, where else in the business world can someone work for a whole year, unless prior to being notified that there no longer adequate or the right person for the job, they may be perfect for some other school. Most jobs, if you don't do the job, in the eyes of the supervisor, three or four months then there is a change made instantly. In education, you have contracts that are hard to violate, and they should be hard to violate. Otherwise, if you make a contract, you should live with it as long as that person is entitled to it. But, one of the things that we'd look for, I'm sure John in his work at Niles has to look for too, is each school district is different. The make-up of the people that live in Milton and Jackson Township, as compared to any other township in Mahoning county, was unique. The people that wanted to be a part of that system, I think, were entitled to know what our impressions were of the kinds of students that would be coming to them from various homes. This doesn't mean just that they were going to be a teacher, but if they were going to coach football, basketball, or if they were going to be an administrator there. I think the same thing applies to all of them in my mind. So, we try to do the best job we could in interviews, telling people first, if you recall, maybe when I interviewed you, I talked most at the beginning, then I asked questions about specific things, trying to see the reaction of the person. We already had the written application. We had their credentials from YSU or whatever college, and we had all the glowing reports as far as, not evaluations, but references and recommendations. We wanted to eyeball the person and just ask them different questions. And for our particular system, for Jackson Milton, I say this without any kind of malice or anything, they're a particular kind of student. We had a community in which there was some of the poorest housing in Mahoning County, we had a lot of families that were in various states of disarray, as far as single households, children living with grandparents, some homes that didn't have plumbing, and a lot of poverty. Next to Youngstown, and I think Campbell schools, we had the highest ADC rate in Mahoning County. In those figures, you can't delude yourself, and think they don't mean anything. They mean a lot. So, when we were looking to hire teachers, we wanted them to know. I agree with the comments that Joe Smik has just made about some of the things you look for in administrators, but one of the things that I am most proud of, is not only the teaching staff, but all the other people that we were involved with in hiring, but that the intensity with which we look for administrators. We never had any assistant principals, we always had a high school principal, middle school principal and an elementary principal. I already mentioned that Les Harris went on to Richmond Heights and later, and today is Superintendent of Jefferson Local Schools, and has been a superintendent ever since. Jim Traveline left Jackson Milton to go to Springfield as superintendent, he is the county superintendent in Marion County, and I take a lot of pride in the fact that Jack Carney, with whom I worked, just retired this year as superintendent of Streetsboro. I could name any number of people that have been administrators with us to the present superintendent of Jackson Milton School, Jim Infante. When he came into Jackson Milton, he had been, his experience as an administrator was minimal, but he was a high school coach, football coach, I think, and many other sports, and had done some leadership things in East Palestine, I believe, where he came from. Dave Ziegler was the principal at the middle school before him, and he became a superintendent. There are any number of people that have left, from an administrative position to Jackson Milton, to take positions of leadership and their backgrounds are all a little bit different, yet they are all the same. They are people that are not afraid to take risks. If you have a principal who will not make a decision, calls you in as superintendent to help him decide, then that could happen once, maybe twice, but then after that, you need a new principal. You do not have the time to do that job and do your job and then the reliance on the superintendent to be your backbone, to me, is not what your looking for. In fact, you know, you went through the rags at Jackson Milton. We created that, not an intern, but head teacher, more and more of a head principal in the absence of a principal. I thought that was a unique agreement that we reached with the J.M.E.A. The only thing that I worried about there, was the pressure on the people that were going to fill those positions, because they had to move in two arenas. But enough work was done to relieve them of some of the problems of administration. We didn't ask them to hire, fire, evaluate, but it worked out so well that your now the principal of Jackson Milton, and I'm sure that your future looks excellent. Joe Bertolini, whose another one who did it, is superintendent of Leetonia. John Gulgas, who also did that, is now working in an administrative capacity. So, we weren't too far off in setting that up. But, the thread that runs common among all these people, that I mentioned, and all, I hope, are still good friends of mine today, is that they were hard workers. I think, you were mentioning about maybe as a coaching background or is it taking an activity or is it staying after school doing something or keeping score at a game or good relationships with people in the community. As you look at your everyday work at school, the leaders are those who are taking risks and work hard. I know that my last couple of years at Jackson Milton, we could not find anybody who wanted to be athletic director. It was too much work. It is a lot of work, but there are some rewards in that. There are awards that come to every person that works hard. So, what I did, was I looked for the workers, and I didn't care where they worked. If they were a bag boy at Sparkles, when they were young, and they had a history of working, and they had history in participating in school in athletics, or clubs, or music, which all requires a sacrifice then I think, you have the beginnings of what your looking for.
Q: You know, you had such a track record of people who had come into the system, stayed for a while and moved on to some higher position. I always wondered what you found was that common element. We kind of talk about it the same way. I term it one thing, and you term it as hard work, but it basically boils down to a work ethic, a characteristic of the people that you hired that have done exactly that. You know, you look at a lot of people that are in positions that you were and you wonder what do they determine, because you had a heck of a track record. We had tons of people go through and move on to other positions, and there had to be some common element that, when you talk about that hard work, work ethic is a . . . it really hits the nail on the head. Dick, how about a gut feeling? Did you ever have a gut feeling about somebody and feel that, you know, go with your intestine, whatever you gut feeling was with an individual, if you weren't sure?
A: I think that is such an important part of a lot of decisions you make, because your either going to be right or your going to be almost wrong. Sometimes, in the final analysis, if there were two outstanding candidates, that's how it was made. This person just seems like the edge is here because you know, you can't put in writing, you can't tell the other person why he didn't get the position, but you have to tell him. I think another thing, Joe, that answers one of the questions that you asked, is I agree with you when you said you think a person has to have leadership qualities, that I can't develop those. I'm only coming across their life, that one time I interview them, unless they worked for the school system, and that one time that your looking for someone, such as Jim Infante, bringing him in at a particular time, when we lost a good man who became superintendent. Bringing him in, I didn't say at that time that this is the future superintendent of Jackson Milton Schools, but it was pretty obvious, I was late in my career and there was an opportunity for someone in that administrative staff to get the first shot. When I left there, that was all I told the principals. You got a shot. I'm not going open it up. The Board has agreed with me. They won't open it up until all of your are rejected. That was within the school. And as you know, all three of the principals, Mr. Cristoff, Jim Cullinan, and Jim Infante applied, and the Board made their decision. When it was all over, my job was to make sure they were going to be friends and they were going to work together. You never know where the leaders are. Sometimes people just do not get the opportunity, but it's there. If their going to be leaders, it will be there.
Q: You had some kind of a unique skill, because you were able to pick them out. We had so many people gone through and become superintendents and other . . . treasurers alone, went through and moved on to bigger districts. That unique skill, I always wondered what it was, that why I said that was more of a personal question, one on the key here, but that hard work and that work ethic does make sense. It's something I think we can very easily see. During all the years you were superintendent, you faced a lot of different pressures and pressure groups. What was one of the biggest headaches you ever had as a superintendent?
A: Well, I think there are about three or four there that are major. Some of them are hard to really get into, but a teacher's strike. That was the first major problem in my administrative career that, I forget the year that happened. The strike only lasted one day, but the affects of the strike lasted, I think, through the rest of my tenure as superintendent. It was over, what I thought was a minor element, but we did have our staff go on strike. The biggest thing I thought we did there was resolve it quickly, and then try to heal the wounds that were created by it, as much as we could. The next thing that I think was a major situation, I'm not putting this in chronological order, but the way they look in my mind, is when had we closed school for about twenty-four days, because back in those days, if you didn't have sufficient funds, there was no answer to it, there was no state loan fund, you just closed schools until you made up the deficit, and we were one of three schools that closed their doors. Ours closed for a long time. We went from about November 13 or 14 to the following January 1, and then we ended up going to school six days a week. We ended up with a lot of severe weather that first month of January when we came back, and we had to miss school. The disruption in the lives of students and teachers and the community was just ludicrous. I recall one of the things that I did. I got a call from a big law firm in Cincinnati. They ask me to come down and testify on a trial that was being held there on changing the state formula for funding the schools, so school closing should never happen again. One of the schools that had closed was down in the Cincinnati area. I became an expert on something that you shouldn't become an expert on how to keep schools closed,or how to keep them open, just a difficult thing. The problem we had there is, we had a levy up eight different times, and were unsuccessful getting the people to give us an opportunity work with more money. So the root of that was, either poor levy campaigns or poor communications with people, and things that arose from that, it was just as though it was back in the thirties when Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Joe Stalin rose from the ashes of disarray in Europe, we had some real scoundrels raise their head and had answers to all of our problems. They created situations that lasted for another two to three years after that. It would take too long to go into, but we lost a good administrator. George Kesner was fired over some of the things he commented about, and they were good comments, but they were just trying to do his job. He offended one of our Board Members, and the make up of the Board, at that time, was as a result of the conflict from closing schools, was that we had a two-three board; two that voted with the superintendent, so to speak, with his recommendations, and three that voted on their own initiative, on what one of the members said they should vote on. Those are two major things, I think, part of that problem started, I think you were with us at that time Joe, when we got the bond issue passed for the building of the new middle school. That was put up twice in 1971, and then subsequently in 1972. And the vote on the first one was very close, by eighty votes different. The second one was a tie vote. So we had a bond issue that wasn't beat or defeated, but it wouldn't be approved because it didn't reach a majority. Several citizens in the community put up the money to call for a recount. This was a paper ballot thing; it wasn't automatic where you flip the lever. And you had to put an "X" if you were for it, and if you were opposed you put an "X" there. In looking over the ballots, there were 448 for and 448 against. Cy Schreiber, one of the leaders in the community, was the spokesman for the people that called for the recount, and they paid the money. We went through precinct by precinct and one of the ballots had a double negative on it. I'm not sure exactly how that read. No, I'm not for it and that was marked in the wrong column, and part of the instructions to the precinct committee men, that worked the ballot areas, was a description of this ballot. It was exactly the way it was pictured in the instructions; if you get a ballot like this, throw it out. It's a double negative and it's not the proper ballot. Your not supposed to write on the ballot, they were supposed put an "X." I hope I am making myself clear. If you are a precinct committee man they give you a list of all the things that disqualify a ballot. Now, why it got past the precinct committee man and was even counted is not something I have any knowledge of. The Board of Elections did not even question that when Mr. Schreiber brought it up. They just threw it out. And now we had one vote that was thrown out on the negative side and they went through the rest of the precincts, and then they declared the election in favor of the bond issue. Well, everybody that was there was elated. We were thrilled. In fact, we went out and got a couple of martinis and didn't go back to school the rest of the day. Some people felt that we had bought the Board of Elections. This is little Jackson Milton, at the time as superintendent, I was making thirteen thousand dollars and most of our teachers were making five or six thousand. There was no way anybody - we didn't even know how to go about buying a Board of Elections, getting one vote. The Board of Elections did an excellent job explaining in the paper, what happened, why it happened. The recriminations over that carried into, I think is why the levy didn't pass seven or eight times. So those two tied into it, I think, probably led to one of the biggest situations in my career as an administrator where the actions of the Board of Education caused a far great uproar in the community and we had ruckus Board meetings, tremendous attendance. We were getting more people their then the Cleveland Cavaliers were at their basketball games, and we had to move from one small room to another, to a big gym where we could accommodate everybody, and it was as though we had gone back to the Romans and the Christians and trying to crucify each other. Now, I don't think it is any secret that I was not a reluctant or recalcitrant recipient of the comments by these Board members. I fought them as hard as I could, every way that I knew, and some ways I'll say here, and some that nobody has to know about. There were all legal ways though. They would meet and have crowds of people, some were our teachers, some were our custodians, that were working for the school system, and attending meetings where these guys were tearing the place apart. I have tapes here of all their meetings. So, I was pretty well informed of what was going on and was able to counter some of the things they were talking about. It's just to hard to go through it. You would have to look at the newspapers, listen to the tapes and see what's going on, but it ended up being a long, drawn out three year affair. I mentioned earlier that we lost a good principal because his contract had expired, and I had a long term contract and there was no way that they were going to find justification to get me out of my contract. As a matter of fact the principal, Les, sued and received payment from the Board because they didn't do it in an appropriate fashion. It wasn't from the Board, because it didn't cost them a penny, but it cost the people in the community money and almost destroyed a reputation of a good person. But anyway, we did finally get an opportunity to fight our way out of that. It was kind of interesting how it happened. One of the leaders got a job in Florida, and he was such an important person, the company was going to give him a jet to fly back to our Board meetings, which everybody knew was just a bunch of bull shit. He couldn't afford a ticket. So, he ended up in Florida, and one way or another, the county prosecutor declared the position vacant and because he was not attending meetings, and so we had four Board members. Now the mathematics isn't too difficult, two and two now, instead of two and three. A former Board member was appointed, because on of the others was starting to have some questions about what they were doing, and so we ended up with a four and one Board. The one was appointed, the one that changed, and the other two. And then the one, wrote a long letter about somethings I had done and commenting about something I hadn't done, but the most important thing was he resigned from the Board. Then, the Board appointed the fifth member and all that was left now was to get back to normalcy, which took a little while. But in that process, it's worth commenting, that we had books that were supposed to be taken out of the library and burnt, and we had alliances with people that I respected on a part of our staff and with this other group that should have known that the culture of the country is in our books. Whether we agree with what is in the books or not, no one has the right to say this book doesn't belong there, unless it is totally obscene. But Catcher in the Rye and Up the Down Staircase and some of the books they were after, were not worthy of being dismissed from the library, so we ended up developing hard feelings over that. The Board, at that time, felt there were some people that should replace George Kesner, that they were going to pick the person. All the years I was at Jackson Milton, the Board hired the principals but basically we interviewed thirty or forty candidates down to five or six, and then they would interview the remaining candidates and make their selection. If you weren't in the remaining group, then, in my opinion, you were not . . . these people were more qualified than those who were not selected. The Board felt they were going to put someone in as principal that was not acceptable to me, as superintendent. It was a person that had spent their entire career as a high school teacher, and the position was elementary, and I didn't want an elementary position taken by a high school person. That wasn't the only reason, but that was one of the major reasons.
Q: One last question. Seeing as how I knew you, and I saw you go through this episode with the Board, and some other things that have occurred, you must have had some kind of a way to release the pressures and the steam that built up, or some kind of a method to get you through these kind of difficult times. What was that? What did you do?
A: Well, Joe the big secret was, that we had in that community, so many good people that were supportive of the position that two minority Board members had taken and I had taken, that they gave me all the encouragement and all the strength that I ever needed to complete the job. I don't mind mentioning people like Don Booth, Cy Schreiber, Flo Harkabus and hundreds of others that were not in a position to do anything politically, but that were just constant supporters. Guys like Tony Vicarelli on the staff and Jim Pepperdean and yourself and other members of the staff that wrote notes, "Hang in there," "You're all we have," you know, "Don't let this madness continue." I still have the notes. We always kept in mind our primary mission was the students, and all this other madness was just getting to be too much of a diversion. If you recall, we never use students in any kind of attempt to counter the things that were going on. We kept the students out of it all the time. We tried to keep their lives as normal as possible. I think there were times where J.M.E.A. (Jackson Milton Education Association tried to take advantage of the political situation to put some pressures on me, that were offensive to me in the beginning, but I understood that. As superintendent, you don't hurt people, by changing their positions, by giving them new teaching assignments, or doing different things to affect their lives, then your just not doing your job. For instance, I know when I left Jackson Milton, that Dr. Infante and you and the other administrators made some major changes. People say to me, "Well what do you think?" I said, "That's what they are supposed to do." It's the way they look at it. They have to do the best they can. They can't sit there and say, Rezek did the best he could and your vision is what is important now, not mine. Well when I took over, that was the thing that I felt. I had to do what I had to do. But anyway, it was no big secret, we had a lot of support. We kept the conflict out of our home. I never talked about it here. I know there were times when my children would read things, but they know me the way your children know you. One of the Board members said I stole three hundred thousand dollars. My son, Ricky, said I wish you would take it out, we sure could use it. All my kids worked all their lives doing something, worked their way through college, and work to this day. Silly accusations such as that. So we had combination of things. We had good support home, and I think you know Joe, that I am not a screaming, fanatical religious fanatic, but I am a very religious person. As far as doing the things I think have to be done as being a Christian. So I think good strong faith, good family, good friends that would call you or go out to eat with them, don't give up, because it got to the point where I think if the Board would have gotten me out of there, the system would not be where it is today. I think there is relative peace in that school system. I don't read anything in the paper about ruckus Board meetings, turmoil and all the things that you don't need in there. It was just an element that had to be faced. I can remember a State Board of Education member came in from Warren. I didn't know who the man was, but he was with the Ohio School Board Association and a member of the State Board, and he said, talking to myself, three Board members that were antagonistic toward myself and the two, his classic statement was, "in conflicts of this type, the superintendent has to go." And I didn't even hesitate. I said, "a conflict of this type the Board has to go. This is not any normal conflict. You're coming in here and you don't know anything that is going on here, your telling me what O.S.B.A. says. They are going to have my membership tomorrow, if this is what they are sending out." The Board is right under any circumstances, they can humiliate people, fire people, try to run a school system, tell you who to hire. They were doing nothing, as far as I was concerned that was right. And so he left, and the Board followed him, and they just left. In my mind they were seizing the moment. They loved the glory of being in the paper, of getting television interviews. They wouldn't do too much without calling the TV stations first, so it could be filmed and video taped, and they just loved the kind of thing that was going on, but eventually, they couldn't take the pressure. And the pressure was, if it's right, it's right; if it's wrong, it's wrong. And there were no doubt in the minds of most of the people I talked with that they were wrong.
Q: There was no doubt that they were wrong. I think that we have asked quite a few questions, and you've answered every one of them well. I think that it's a shame that people with the kind of experience and abilities that you have, have to retire. Personally, I was at the school and learned a lot. That is why some of these questions, to me, give me a little bit of insight how actually what was your motivation behind some of them, and I've learned some things today that I didn't know about, for which I thank you. John, do you have any other questions? I can understand where Dick is coming from when he talks about the Board of Education members trying to run the school and not knowing their place. Often times they want to make all the decisions and without the recommendations of the superintendent. When you start having that type of situation, it creates utter pandemonium within the school district. And it takes a tough superintendent, as a present superintendent, Dick as a retired superintendent, I know the pressures of the job. The pressures, at times, are overwhelming and sometimes you wondered and you sit back, is it all worth it, but then you say, "yeah, you know, were here for kids and as long as you have the purpose in mind, we can't be deterred in our direction that we want to go." It's a tough job.
A: Yeah, I read about some of the things that you go through John, and you know, the superintendent of Liberty, and I would say silently, if you are right, hang in there; if you're not then do what you have to do. But, the big thing is you can't hide. The superintendent cannot hide. He can't stay away from a basketball game because you had a bad Board meeting, and you can't avoid a group that wants to hear what you have to say, because ninety percent of them are going to bounce you off the wall. I don't know, Joe, you may have not heard about the meeting at the Town House, out there in Lake Milton. There were attorneys there, three Board members, and the room was still with these ruckus people wanting to know answers. All kind of legal things and you had to go there and do the best you can answering the questions. If you start hiding, then they know your going to be weak and you'll give in. But, I appreciate your nice comments too, Joe, and I think that if there is one last thing that I'll say, I think you almost hate to retire if you think you can still be productive. I did get tired the last two years, not tired physically or not sick. It just gets to you, because your making decisions so much. As you know or may not know, I don't think I ever took a sick day when I was at Jackson Milton and that was twenty years. I was fortunate enough to be healthy to work. I never went to a national convention. I went to a lot of state things, where I saw John and other friends. It was a good outlet. A lot of the meetings I went to, I almost semi-dozed, but it was always the times afterwards, when I would sit down and have a talk with someone or just sit for a long time and talk about schools. I hope this doesn't happen to you or John, but I've been out three years, we talked about it when we first started, and it's amazing how much time you need to get away from it. As you know, I haven't been out to Jackson Milton. I've been asked a couple of times, but I just can't get back into that kind of routine again right now where it's not relaxing. I don't think anybody would hurt me out there, but it's just a case that I don't go to any athletic events unless I want to. I saw your son play at Boardman a couple times this year, because I knew who he was. I saw Bob Sauley's kid play. While I was at Jackson Milton, I never saw anybody play other than Jackson Milton. I felt that's where I had to go - football, basketball, track, wrestling. You just get very tired. You don't realize how tired you are. It's been good, as we said, we are healthy, our families are healthy, my wife's healthy, but we're still not working, and right now I don't plan to doing anything. I hope it continues that way.
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