Ross Schools leader looks back on first year in top job

As the end nears on Scott Gates’ first year as superintendent with Ross Schools, the veteran educator says there has been a connective theme during his time as superintendent of the high-achieving school system.

“There is a common thread through all of my conversations and observations this year and it’s quite simple — the community loves Ross Schools,” said Gates.

The rural Butler County district, which enrolls 2,835 students, is consistently one of Southwest Ohio’s top academic performers on the state’s annual school report card.

HOW GATES GOT HERE: Long-time Ross Schools leader retires

In 2015, Ross High School won the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Education’s “All As” award — one of only 44 awarded to high schools in the state.

Gates, who came from Hamilton County’s Finneytown Schools where he served as director of student services, replaced the long-time superintendent Greg Young, who retired in 2016.

Gates shared with the Journal-News his impressions as his first school year comes to a close.

Q: This is your first school year as a superintendent, what has been the biggest surprise for you?

A: “While this is my first year as a superintendent, it is also my 19th year in educational administration. I’ve had many experiences and some wonderful mentors so I don’t know if there were any big surprises. The biggest difference from other types of administration is working directly with the board of education. They have been wonderful to me as I moved through my first year. While the board as a whole has been very supportive, the uniqueness of each member has allowed me to grow and learn in a variety of ways based on their personalities, interests, philosophies and experiences.”

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Q: Ross Schools has a history as one of the top districts in Southwest Ohio, after your first year as the district’s leader what did you see and hear that helped you understand the secrets to its success?

A: “There is trust, passion, commitment, a strong culture of excellence, all wrapped up in a box labeled ‘what’s best for kids.’ My first summer as superintendent I met with dozens of staff and community members and I will tell you I floated out of the office on cloud nine based on all the great things I was hearing. These comments have not ceased by any means throughout the school year.”

Q: What challenges did your school building administration leaders and teachers overcome this school year that you are particularly proud of?

A: “After I was hired, I had to hire a new director of curriculum and a director of student service/human resources. In additional to this, our treasurer was finishing his first year in Ross. I think that a brand new central office staff was a challenge we all had to work through and I’m very proud to say that we have been successful with this transition. I’m also very proud of our buildings for their individual efforts tackling challenges throughout the year. There is a strong level of collaboration within each building which allows them to overcome small and large obstacles. “

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Q: What are some of the hidden strengths of Ross Schools that most residents may not know about?

A: “I believe our strengths are anything but hidden from our community. I believe our community already knows. The staff of Ross Schools is second to none. At any given time and with any given student our staff are: teachers, cheerleaders, advocates, shoulders to cry on, parents, comedians, communicators, technology supports, mediators, modifiers, accommodators, researchers, observers, listeners, analyzers, data controllers, authors, brain stormers, and custodians.

Q: What do you foresee for Ross Schools for next school year?

A: “Continued excellence in all academic areas, passion toward the district and support for all students. Continued efforts to be more efficient (with) analysis and effective use of taxpayer money and a continued push toward innovation.”

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