Nancy House is retiring after 38 years as an educator –
her last day in the office is Wednesday, July 29, 2020
By Chuck Gibson
MILFORD, OH (July 28, 2020) – Nancy House remains an English teacher at heart, but Wednesday, July 29, 2020 she leaves the office one last time as Superintendent of Milford Exempted Village Schools (MEVS) in Clermont County – Milford, Ohio.
House served the Milford Schools as Superintendent for four years from the start of the 2016-2017 school year to the incredible close of the 2019-2020 school year. There were a lot of “firsts” during her time in charge but, as she heads into retirement, it has been about some “lasts” for her. As mentioned here already, Wednesday, July 29, is her last day in the office. Thursday, July 16, was her last Milford Board of Education meeting as the administrative leader of MEVS.
House made it interesting as the board discussed plans for reopening Milford Schools for the coming school year. She brought some history and perspective to the planning and discussion.
“We found the Milford Board of Education minutes from December 1918,” said House. “They voted to close school because of the influenza pandemic.”
Nancy House, retired Milford Schools Superintendent (FILE)
Then they found the December 27, 1918 minutes where the board decided schools would remain closed until January 6, 1919 at which time the Superintendent and Board President would decide if they would reopen. That was over 100 years ago.
“I shared that because it did give me hope,” House said. “Milford Schools had been through this before. Now, they weren’t worried about remote learning, but they did have to close. They obviously came back.”
She shared the hope on a night the board made special for their outgoing superintendent. There were lots of well-wishes and messages of fond memories for House. There were even messages from students of her 24 years as a high school English teacher. Vice President of the MEVS Board of Education, Andrea Brady says House touched nearly every aspect of the district during her four years bringing “significant value” to students, families, and the taxpayers of Milford. A couple of her accomplishments stood out for Brady.
“The first is her work on the ‘Portrait of an Eagle’ strategic plan,” said Brady, referring to work which helped the district focus on the student’s needs to find success in today’s world whether college, career, or military is the path they choose. “It will be a benefit to our students for years to come.”
The accomplishment Brady cited as the second to stand out among the accomplishments of House was her change to the budgeting process.
“It is helping us through the budget cuts and increased expenses from COVID-19,” Brady said. “Nancy leaves the district a legacy of continuous improvement, lifelong learning and, most importantly, a focus on student success.”
During the four-year tenure of House, the MEVS carryover budget balance increased from $27.3 million to now $43 million.
“We’ve increased our cash balance significantly,” House said. “We’re positioned really, really well comparatively in Ohio.”
House says it was equally a tough challenge and a proud accomplishment for her. Funding for public schools in Ohio is blamed for contentious tax levies. She is concerned the gap will only get wider between the wealthier school districts (passing of levies) and middle wealth districts (with failing levies) falling behind. Problems which should be in her rearview mirror, but the concern in her voice says she still cares deeply about Milford Schools and education throughout Ohio. She was able to reflect on some of her accomplishments while leading Milford Schools. She echoed the sentiments of school board member Andrea Brady regarding the importance of developing the “Portrait of a Milford Eagle”.
“We built our strategic plan from there,” she said. “We really looked at what we need to do to prepare our students. Our tag line became: ‘For their future, not our past;’ to understand how the world has changed. We want all our graduates to be college, career, or military ready.”
House says today’s world calls for problem-solving skills, not memorization, teaching kids how to take knowledge and apply it to a situation; using creativity in finding solutions. She credits everyone involved for coming together to develop the plan focused on teaching kids to think and find their own unique path to success. The basis is a belief she carried with her during 38 years as an educator and saw confirmed both as a teacher and administrator.
“If you trust in others and present a challenge or assignment, but don’t tell them how to do it,” House explained. “It was really open ended. The work I would get was far beyond what I would get if I told them how to do it.”
Milford Eagle Pin specially designed and given to MHS grads going into the Military (FILE)
House carried the lesson over from the classroom to giving teachers and staff autonomy also. She trusted teachers to know what they need to learn to teach their students. She also cites a very personal goal to increase mental health supports and frameworks in the district.
“That was very important personally and professionally to me,” said House. “When I was 22, my 18 year-old brother committed suicide. It has always been something that was critical.”
Building the framework and support system for mental health along with creating autonomy for teachers were the top two goals she set coming in as Milford Schools Superintendent. Allowing teachers to choose their own professional development programs has returned autonomy for them. House worked hard with staff to develop a mental health plan from just a framework idea. She credits her “cabinet” for coming up with a plan which now includes professional mental health people as part of the staff. Agencies frequently failed at critical times of need. It took a lot of hard work to find ways to support those who struggle with mental health issues according to Andrea Brady.
“The addition of metal health support personnel and the HOPE Squad have been very powerful not only for those students who need help, but also for those who step up to be the ambassadors,” Brady said. “The change in focus has really reduced the stigma around depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, which is of benefit to everyone.”
Nancy House made personal delivery of “Grad Bags” to families and graduates of Class of 2020 (FILE)
Positive results are being revealed in real data. While Milford was first to develop the Hope Squad program with identified and trained teen peers helping fellow students, many other schools have followed the model and now have Hope Squads in their schools. It goes beyond Hope Squad with true mental health professionals making a difference for teachers and staff understanding in Milford Schools.
“It fits into the research we know young people are more likely to tell another young person than they are an adult,” said House. “We’ve known that forever. The Hope Squad is not counselors; their role is to make the contact with an adult.”
“Nancy cares greatly about our students as whole people,” said Brady.
When she walks out of the Milford Schools Administration Building office for the final time Wednesday, July 29, Nancy House is not going to stop caring. She and her husband plan to move to Florida to be closer to their daughters who live there. She has already sent a letter to the county school superintendent where they’ll be living in Florida offering to help. Oh yes, Nancy House still cares about kids and schools.
“It starts with I’m not looking for a job,” House said. She simply offers to share her experience any way she can. “I’m going to give myself a little bit of time. I’ve worked non-stop for 38 years. We’re going to travel for a year. If we can’t travel, we have a big motorcycle trip planned and we’ll boat.”
NOTE: John Spieser officially takes over as the new Superintendent for Milford Exempted Village Schools August 1. Look for a Feature profiling the new Superintendent coming on Loveland Beacon