By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER -- Gayl Ray walks down a Minster High School corridor near the administrative offices and pauses by a hand-painted banner.
"Minster Wildcats tradition and excellence."
Ray, who became superintendent Aug. 1, agrees wholeheartedly with the bright orange statement. She vows to continue the pattern of excellence and already has launched an ambitious three-year plan.
Curriculum mapping is on tap this year giving parents an opportunity to go online and see what their children are learning each week. In addition, they will be able to access grades to gauge their success.
Data-driven classrooms will be the buzzword during year two as teachers learn how to collect and use data as it applies to making instructional decisions. All the pieces come together in year three with the establishment of professional learning communities where teachers get together to discuss student success. "Our greatest resource is not oil, coal or what's in the ground," she says emphatically. "It is our young people because they are the future. We need to expect the best, set high expectations and provide a safety net for those who falter. No child deserves to fall through the cracks."
She plans to connect with young people through the establishment of a superintendent/student advisory council comprised of herself and two representatives from the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes.
"Who knows better than the kids in the trenches," she says. "They will represent their constituents in making positive changes and that will require doing their homework in terms of research and putting together multimedia presentations."
Ray, who previously served as executive director of curriculum in the Mansfield City Schools, nearly chose a different career path in life. Her dream of becoming a geologist, working for a petroleum company and being associated with the Alaskan Pipeline were dashed when an adviser warned women often did not get such posts.
"Women used to have two career choices -- teaching or nursing," she says. "I always had a passion for children so I chose teaching."
She initially taught anatomy and physiology to high school seniors and learned to appreciate their progressive thinking. Her interest gradually turned to school administration as a means of touching more lives.
Ray has served as deputy director for the Center of Education and Training for Employment at Ohio State University, supervisor for Career Pathways and Professional Development with the Ohio Department of Education and a private consultant to business and industry. She holds a doctorate in educational management from Ohio State University, master's degrees in educational management and vocational education from Kent State University, and a bachelor's degree in technical education from the University of Akron.
She believes education and experience have prepared her well for assuming the new role in Minster. And she relishes blazing a new trail as the only female to hold such a post in the Auglaize-Mercer County area.
"There has been a change in superintendency over the years,"
she explains. "To be successful in the 21st century you must have a strong knowledge of curriculum development."
Curriculum will play an important role in future planning as administrators and staff review current science offerings in grades 7 through 12 and work toward the establishment of a weighted honor/advanced placement grading system.
Ray's husband, Robert "Rob" Vajda, toured the community as she interviewed for the post.
"Gayl, I think you would like it here," he told her and she quickly agreed.
She has moved into an apartment for the time being and hopes her husband, a property manager and human resources specialist, will find employment in the area. He currently resides in Dublin with their two cats, Sam and Casey.
Diehard football fans, they have acquired a plethora of orange clothing for Wildcat games and look forward to becoming part of the Minster community. She already signed up as an Oktoberfest volunteer.
Ray has put such interests as reading, gourmet cooking and mastering a Singer sewing machine on hold as she settles in and prepares for the start of a new school year.
"My predecessor Hal Belcher left a hammer, screwdriver and nails in the desk," she says with a smile. "I replaced those boy toys with a mirror. Now I'm ready to go."