When Jeff Schlade took a position at Lakewood Schools in June the timing was not the best as there wasn’t much time for Swanton Local Schools to find a new superintendent before the new school year started. But for Swanton’s new superintendent, Chris Lake, the timing was just right.
The Swanton resident took over in late August and had a hectic start to his first superintendent job, as Swanton worked to get newly renovated buildings ready in time for the first day of classes. The buildings opened on time, but the district project is ongoing.
Although in 2017 the timing was right, Lake did not necessarily plan on becoming a superintendent when he started his teaching career at Perrysburg in 1998.
“When you first get in the classroom you think ‘I’m going to do this forever.’ And then as you get older and start to do some different things in your career you just find that you have different things that you are interested in,” said Lake.
Time spent as a union president brought to his attention new areas of education that Lake said he found fascinating. He then got his principal’s license before being named principal of Tinora High School.
He then took a handful of other classes needed for a superintendent’s license, thinking it would give him flexibility in his career.
“It was something I thought, ‘Maybe as I get closer to retirement I’ll want to do that.’ One thing leads to another and a job opens up in your hometown, and you’re like ‘I’ve got to go for it,’”Lake said.
Lake said he probably would have remained principal for a while longer. But Swanton has been his home for 18 years, his children are in the school system, and he’s coached local youth sports teams.
“It was kind of like a dream job scenario,” Lake said. “When you have a chance to work with the town you care about, work for the town you care about, I mean, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
He finds the job of superintendent fascinating. “I’ve learned something new every day. I learn more about my role every day,” said Lake.
He also enjoys that he has the opportunity to see all of the different grade levels.
“I’m in the buildings all the time. It’s great. Walking around classrooms. Getting to see levels of teaching and what’s going on with kids in levels that I haven’t had that opportunity to do because I’ve always been in the high school.”
He’s read to kindergarten students and even sat town with fourth grade students for lunch one day.
Being the leader of the district, Lake has to make difficult decisions that sometimes leave people unhappy. “It’s one of those things where you have to do what’s best for the district, the kids, you have to follow policies that are in place. People often don’t understand that,” he said.
That sometimes leads to difficult conversations with people. “It’s not enjoyable but it’s part of the job.”
Lake’s goal is to continue pushing the district forward.
“I want this to be the best educational experience possible for students in the community,” the superintendent said. “We want to continue to be an asset to the community… I want us to be one of the things that draws people (to Swanton). We’ve got a top-notch group of people working in this district and I think that’s what they want too.”