In each “On Leadership” column, Allen Lima Leadership Executive Director Matt Childers talks with a regional business leader. This week, he profiles Mark Bagley, superintendent of Van Wert City Schools. He’s also the former head basketball coach at Van Wert High School.
Matt: Mark, welcome!
Mark: Thanks for having me, Matt. Unprecedented times right now. Leadership has never been more important in our nation, our schools and our families.
Matt: Let’s start with your early years?
Mark: Education was always huge for me. Both my parents were teachers. I also had a grandfather who was a principal for 40 years. It was always huge factor in my life. My mom was a kindergarten teacher, so many summers I was helping her. I knew through family discussions that education was going to be a big part of my life.
Matt: Go a little deeper on your parent’s influence?
Mark: My mom and dad were both educators, and my dad transitioned to the Marsh Foundation and was the director there for 29 years after teaching middle school. I learned so much from my father. One of the trademarks is to be a servant leader and to be the director of the Marsh Foundation he really had to be that leader that would serve a wide range of kids from different situations, some temporary and some permanent. That was a great model for me. My mother’s influence on me and the way she treated her students like her own. Both were great examples. My sister is a current teacher and so is my older brother and my other brother taught college for college for a number of years. So my parents were huge influences in our lives.
Matt: As your path in education went from Ottoville to Van Wert as a teacher and coach and then as administrator, what are some leadership lessons you have found on that path?
Mark: The first part of leadership that I believe is underrated is to find mentors that can help you achieve your professional goals. You surround yourself with people who can help you grow. I found that right across the hall in a guidance counselor Ed Clark. He provided a great mentor relationship. How to go about things. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave. In the coaching profession it was Dave Froelich (Van Wert) for 20 years and Jeff McMillan (Ottoville, my first coaching job). So you surround yourself with people that can produce the mentorship and the life lessons that you don’t always get. Yes your family is important, yes College at Taylor (University) is important and they provided a great foundation for me. But the lessons from mentors in education and coaching helped keep me in this profession for a long time. Ed, Coach Froelich and Coach McMillian were the greatest servant leaders I have ever been around.
Matt: In education and athletics, how do you go about hiring your teams ?
Mark: I think you look at climate and culture. Climate is more the temperature of the group, and culture is consistent expectations for a long time. When you are hiring people or a team you have to look at how they will enhance our culture. Over the course of a long time, are they going to enhance our school district and will they bring value to being that servant leader and to help grow other leaders? I do not want a top-down approach. I would like a team that builds each other up. The greatest saying for this is, “we is greater than me.”
Matt: What does your culture look like when blending faculty (adults) and students (youth) to get to a final goal?
Mark: I like to use this: If your job as an adult whether as a parent or teacher that you think the value of how good they are in your class, or in sports, or in band or other extracurricular activities, then we are missing the boat! I think it is our job as parents and as teachers to raise the youth to be hard working, respectful and servant leaders. Their value should not be judged on how good they are at sports or school. Because at the end of the day, if you ask two questions: Did you work hard and give your best effort, and did you have fun?