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July 11, 2020

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Meet Ada's new school superintendent, Meri Skilliter

"My career is child-centered. Ada’s kids are my kids."

The Icon caught up with Meri Skilliter a couple days after she accepted the superintendent position at Ada schools. She holds her principal/superintendent certification from the University of Findlay. Her superintendent certification courses are from Ohio State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bluffton University and a master's in educational leadership from the University of Dayton.

Here’s a portion of our discussion.

When you were a student, what teacher excited you about making a career in education?

Skilliter: Mrs. Hetrick, my fifth grade at Woodmore elementary, encouraged me to write. She was a fantastic teacher.

Tell us about your teaching career. Where did is start and how did you make your way to Ada?

Skilliter: From 1992 to 2005 I taught fifth grade in Bluffton – mostly science. Then I became elementary principal at Gibsonburg from 2005 to 2013. From 2013 until 2016 I was superintendent at McComb, a school system with about 650 students.

What are some of the differences from moving from teacher to principal to superintendent?

Skilliter: It’s a leap from teacher to principal. As principal I learned the seventh to 12th grade world. As a superintendent I really learned along the way, for example, dealing with the state and school finances. It was a real learning curve.

In what ways do you work at encouraging students?

Skilliter: I want to encourage students to know that whatever they decide is their dream, I want to help them make that happen. I want to encourage teachers by giving them the tools to teach students. We (teachers and staff) want our students to think outside the box. We want them to believe they can do it!

Could you describe your anticipated involvement in the Ada schools?

Skilliter: My career is child-centered. Ada’s kids are my kids. My decisions as superintendent will be what is best for them. I love to be involved in all activities inside and outside of the classroom.

What are your thoughts about being superintendent in a village that has a university?

Skilliter: Between Ohio Northern University and the Ada schools I see so many opportunities for collaboration. ONU offers us the opportunity to bring professionals to school. The College Credit Plus is another great opportunity for Ada students with ONU so close.

In addition to having ONU in Ada, what else excites you about the Ada schools?

Skilliter: I’m very excited that the community is invested in music and the arts. The fact that the community funded an auditorium says a lot for Ada. Everything here (curriculum and extra-curricular activities) appears to be so well rounded.

What do you see as your immediate responsibilities at Ada?

Skilliter: First, I seek to understand the school and community. That’s going to take the winter and spring for me to introduce myself. I feel a real sense of family with the teachers and staff. I want to foster that. Nothing here is broken and that’s great. I’m going to work on the continued growth of what is already in place.

Tell us about your family.

Skilliter:  My family is very supportive of my move to Ada. They are my best cheerleaders.

My husband, Rick, was Bluffton’s police chief for 27 years before retiring this fall. He now works for Perry Pro Tech, in the Digital Cops Division, in Lima.  He is a volunteer fire fighter, and we both have been members of the volunteer EMS, most recently as EMT-Intermediates, for the last 25-plus years.  Rick is the coordinator for the West Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team, a shared mission we hold near and dear to our hearts.

We have three sons.

Evan is 24 and works for State Bank in Findlay.  He is starting his graduate degree at the University of Syracuse in broadcast and communications in January. Evan married Rachel Keske, a Shawnee graduate and Bluffton University senior. She just finished her final semester of classes as a math education (7-12) major, and will student teach at Columbus Grove High School beginning in January.

Jordan is almost 20, and is a sophomore at the University of Toledo in mechanical engineering.  He begins his first engineering co-op in January.  Jordan dates Rachel Breitigam, a Cory-Rawson graduate, and a freshman at ONU. Rachel works at Viva Maria’s, so we’ve been known to frequent that restaurant as well.

Braden, Jordan’s twin, was sworn in to the Bluffton Police Department at Rick’s last council meeting in September, after completing the police academy at Rhodes State College this last summer.  He just completed his associate’s degree from Rhodes, and is working part-time for Bluffton police department.

It's great talking with you and we look forward to many continued successes with you, the Ada community and Ada schools.

From left, standing with Wilson the Ada school mascot are Rachel Breitigam, ONU freshman and Jordan Skilliter's girl friend; Rick Skilliter; Meri Skilliter; Rachel Skilliter, wife of Evan Skilliter; and Branden Skilliter. Missing are Evan and Jordan Skilliter.