BELMONT-H. Kirk Glasgow says he wasn't what one would call a model student. His high school shop teacher began turning things around for young Glasgow and led him into a 35-year career in education. Glasgow, the superintendent of Union Local school district, is retiring from that career as of today.
"I was ornery," he says, shaking his head. "But this teacher took kids like myself, who were wayward, under his wing. Working in his class, I found out I had a knack for seeing projects before they were finished. He would show visiting former students what I was working on. It built up my confidence."
Glasgow wanted to graduate and find a job "making things" after discovering that he had a talent for woodworking. His parents had other ideas, however. They insisted that he attend college, and on the way down to Eastern Kentucky University Glasgow was still telling them that he didn't want to go to school.
H. Kirk Glasgow, in the Union Local High School lobby, reflects on his 35 years in education. Today marks his final day as Union Local superintendent.
"I had this bad vision of college," he adds. Once there, though, he changed his mind and even chose an education degree realizing that as an industrial arts teacher he would be able to use his hands and possibly work with students that needed extra help. By sheer fate, Glasgow ended up at his alma mater, St. Clairsville High School when his former history teacher called him with a job offer.
"I decided that I wanted to return the favor, so to speak," Glasgow explains. "I asked the principal to send me students that needed some extra attention. As it turns out, some of them became valedictorians, salutatorians, and many became architects. One student who took every one of my classes attended West Point."
As a teacher, Glasgow began working one period a day with the principal and was offered the assistant principal's position. A year later he was hired as St. Clairsville High School's principal. The year after that, he became the assistant superintendent for Union Local school district and the superintendent the following year. He has been with Union Local for 13 years, and, according to board member Allen Mann, is the first superintendent to retire from the district.
Glasgow has been responsible for many projects over those years that have enhanced the district's school experience. The district ratings went from "academic emergency" to "effective," with both the high school and middle school achieving "excellent" ratings. The Union Local nature trail began as a cross country training trail and earned the school an Ohio Department of Natural Resources "Wild School" designation for its combination of educational and fitness components. The lawn flag in front of the campus was a tribute to the victims of 9/11. It was rebuilt last year and stands as a memorial to all first responders and veterans who have passed on or lost their lives in the line of duty. The campus is also a food pantry site that serves dozens of area families.
He is proud of the facilities. "We're fortunate that we've been able to maintain high standards on the buildings and keep them safe and in good condition," he says. "We've had to be creative, but Ohio School Facilities was on board with funding a couple of big projects. I've tried to be a good ward, a protector of these public buildings."
One of his most grueling accomplishments was getting the district finances under control. Two years ago Union Local was heading for fiscal emergency, but thanks to some difficult cutbacks and budget scrutiny, the district ended the 2012-13 school year in the black.
"There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into that," notes Glasgow. "Unfortunately it affected people's lives."
The other side of this is one of his greatest challenges, he says, "trying to maintain quality courses and student programs on a shoestring."
"We write grants and look at alternative funding trying to come up with ways to maintain. I've never been able to just write a check for textbooks or whatever. We look at every way possible to keep things going, but I've been blessed with a good staff and support staff. I wouldn't trade them for anything."
In his early days as a teacher Glasgow saw the State close schools down a few days early at Christmas break because the State was out of money.
He says that if he ran Ohio's education system, "I would go to the Supreme Court and make the legislators fulfill the DeRolph decision. I would make them own it. It's been totally ignored and would make all funding equal. As it is, we're over-dependent on property taxes." On March 24, 1997 the Ohio Supreme Court handed down their decision that Ohio's method of funding public education was unconstitutional and put rural districts at a disadvantage. That method is still in place.
Money, Glasgow believes, is the root of the challenges districts face today, most notably the increasing number of unfunded, expensive State mandates.
"They want us to operate a certain way, but they won't help us. The State has tried to camouflage and masquerade the demolition of public education. They take money away and add responsibility to public schools in trying to privatize the system."
Terry Puperi, board president, says that Glasgow "really cares about people. As far as students are concerned, his decisions over the years have always had the students' success in mind. He felt he had an obligation to ALL students. He was concerned about the teachers and staff at the school and would see to it that they had the resources to do their jobs successfully."
Board member Todd Kildow describes Glasgow as "a positive representative for our district," "student-friendly" and "not afraid to work."
He also notes, "He has always supported student-related activities and has been a VERY positive influence and supporter of any youth sports program." When Glasgow was a teacher, he coached 7th and 8th grade basketball and high school cross country teams.
It is the students who have kept Glasgow at Union Local even though he has had offers with higher salaries. He points out the accepting and inviting atmosphere toward new students and those with special needs, calling UL students "phenomenal."
Glasgow has "no regrets" and is looking forward to spending more time with his wife of 29 years, Marcia. They have two children and six grandchildren. He has plans to ride the Hatfield & McCoy trails in West Virginia with his son, attend a NASCAR race and become more active in the Masons and Osiris Shrine organizations. He may even build a wood shop onto his garage and get back to making things with his hands.
"The job is consuming. I'm not complaining; it's just what the job is. On any given day I have second thoughts about leaving. This place grows on you. You make connections with people, with students, especially with the office being on the campus. The administrative staff has been very good, as well as the central office staff," Glasgow notes.
"I've had a good experience. I've been blessed with a good professional career. Now my time will be my own."
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.