Retiring longtime school superintendents look back on careers

Centerville’s Henderson, Kettering’s Inskeep, Brookville’s Hopkins and West Carrollton/ESC leader Clifford step down

Four of the longest-serving school superintendents in Montgomery County are retiring by Aug. 1, taking a chunk of local history with them.

Centerville superintendent Tom Henderson, Kettering superintendent Scott Inskeep and former West Carrollton superintendent Rusty Clifford — now Montgomery County Educational Services Center director of administration and operations — all plan to retire at the end of this school year.

Add in just-retired former Brookville superintendent Tim Hopkins and their combined experience as superintendents in Montgomery County made up about 66 years, Clifford noted.

Hopkins, Henderson and Inskeep’s districts have all named replacements for the men already. But all four say leaving their long careers in education is bittersweet.

“We have always lived in a community and will continue to live in the community. I’m just really excited to see where they go next,” Hopkins, a Brookville graduate, said of his experience working in Brookville schools.

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For all the men, their time working in education was defined by people. It was the relationships with students, the relationships with school staff and community leaders and their relationships with each other that made the job special, they agreed.

“I think all of us have surrounded and been surrounded by really, really good mentors,” Henderson said. “And those people, those important people in our lives and in our careers have all influenced us to make decisions about what our next step was.”

Each agreed that the superintendents in Montgomery County are particularly close, and several said they appreciated the others helping them along the way.

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“Rusty was my mentor my first year. He was assigned to me as a mentor 20 years ago, and we’ve stayed friends for 20 years,” Inskeep said. “Tim and Tom are my friends and I’ve gotten to know a lot of really great people.”

Clifford said his least favorite part of being a superintendent was losing a tax levy.

“Losing a levy is a crusher,” Clifford said. “You try not to take it personally. I mean, you know, you shouldn’t take it personally.”

But it is still hard, he said.

“You have to run in the black,” Inskeep said of the decision to ask for a levy. “That’s a law. So you’ve got no other choice other than either decide to increase revenue or get rid of programs that tend to be important for families.”

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Henderson said that while Ohio law requires schools to project out five years, the district is typically forecasting much longer than that. The district knows how long it will take for them to run out of money, he said.

Hopkins said he’s looking forward to taking some time for his family, more than just the last week in July when he could get off for vacation with his family.

Henderson agreed, noting he was often working 80 hours in a week. It was rewarding, he said, but still hard on his family. He said he’s looking forward to continuing to serve, but to be able to do so on a 30 hour per week schedule, rather than 80.

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The four said they’re looking forward to seeing what the next group of education leaders have to offer, and said they hope more people choose to go into education.

“Education is a great business,” Inskeep said. “I would never, ever, ever change what I did. And it was an honor to do it for 39 years.”

All of the men have plans to continue to serve in their own ways. Inskeep will lead a Cincinnati-based nonprofit focusing on preventing youth suicide after his retirement. Henderson and Hopkins said they plan to remain in their communities and volunteer. Clifford said he’s looking forward to helping organizations he’s worked with while at the MCESC and in West Carrollton.

“Servant leadership is what it’s all about,” Henderson said. “It’s just all about what Rusty said, and Scott: it’s about putting others first. We feel that’s very important and obviously doing the right things for our students and our staff is really what the job is.”

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