Surveying what remained in his office, Wapakoneta High School Principal Aaron Rex prepared for his last day today.
Some of the Wapakoneta items he had collected through his 16 years at the school he planned to leave with others, but some he would take with him when he left.
“Over the years I have accumulated a lot of Redskins stuff,” Rex said.
Jerseys, certain clothing items, a football helmet and a Redskins clay pot made by the art teacher all will find their way to Rex’s home in Archbold.
Three years ago, Rex earned his superintendent’s license, knowing it was a position he wanted to hold some day.
“I always thought maybe I would be hired here eventually, but Keith (Horner, Wapakoneta City School’s superintendent) is young, his daughter goes to school here, and he will probably be around a long time,” Rex said.
Other positions came up, but none had really interested him until Archbold Local Schools, where he is expected to start as superintendent on Monday.
“I only wanted to take a job better than the job I currently had,” Rex said.
He said he put his name in for the position not knowing if he would even get an interview.
For his second interview for the position, a group from Archbold visited Wapakoneta and Rex admitted it made him feel awkward.
“They wanted to learn who I was but I didn’t want the kids to feel weird about it, to think that I didn’t want to be here,” Rex said. “It wasn’t that. I wanted to be superintendent.”
Rex also toured the three school buildings he would be charged with at Archbold, a district of approximately 1,250 in northwestern Ohio.
He compared the district to Wapakoneta, a city based in an agricultural community, only smaller.
“Every year (for 11 years) they have been rated excellent, so they are already well established in academics,” Rex said noting that they also have a athletic program with state championships under their belt. “I’m excited to get started there.”
In his seventh year as principal at Wapakoneta High School, Rex said he had learned so much through the job, which kept him busy and challenged along the way, but he was beginning to feel comfortable and he wanted a new challenge.
He was concerned that a superintendent job would mean less interaction with students, something he really enjoys.
He was glad to learn his office will be in the high school at Archbold, and he plans to attend as many events as possible. Rex, who served as sportsmanship director for the Western Buckeye League (WBL) this year, also is making plans to start up a Varsity A Club at his new school.
With a subscription already to the local paper there, Rex is cutting out pictures and articles about students and sending them along with little notes to get to know the student body at Archbold and vice versa.
“I want to let them know who I am. I only saw my superintendent once,” Rex said of when he was in school. “You have to make that effort.”
With his family staying in Wapakoneta through the end of the school year, Rex said he can dedicate his time to school activities and meeting parents and students in the community.
“The challenge of being superintendent comes in bringing different ideas,” Rex said. “It’s already an excellent school system, but I do have some ideas.”
Archbold has gone without a superintendent for several months, with an interim filling the spot for the time being.
Thinking about his children — Layne, a freshman, Lydia, a sixth-grader, and Ella, a fourth-grader — and their activities also was important to Rex as he made a decision about what path to pursue.
“I wanted to go to a community where they could continue dance, band, piano and we researched that,” Rex said.
As soon as he accepted the job at Archbold, Rex said people there reached out and welcomed them.
“This is the only place I have ever been,” Rex said of Wapakoneta. “I met the administrators here on the campus at Bowling Green (State University). I’ve developed a lot of close relationships in the years I have been here.”
Not only will Rex miss the job, but he will miss the friends he and his wife, Kami, made here as well, but with his mother, Beverly Cook, now living in the community, too, he knows he will be back.
“Memories, people, the kids, certainly there are things I will never forget,” Rex said. “I enjoyed coming here. I didn’t miss a day.”
Rex said he will miss seeing the kids in the stands on Friday nights and running out before a game. He won’t forget the support the community gave, when they went to playoffs in football or the whole town making the trip to Columbus to watch the girls play in the final four during the state basketball tournament.
“A town like this everyone comes to events at school,” Rex said. “I never want to go to a school where people don’t show up.”
Even during building renovations when students had classes in modulars outside, Rex said it was stressful but brought everyone closer together.
Taking on a lot of ownership at the high school, Rex said he wanted everyone to be successful.
“I like the idea that once a Redskin always a Redskin,” Rex said.
Before he became principal of Wapakoneta High School, Rex served as assistant principal and taught government and history.
The graduate of Bath High School and BGSU also coached middle school football, track, girls basketball, and the academic team.
“When I first got into teaching, I enjoyed it,” Rex said. “My first year interacting with administrators I knew what I wanted to do.
“This is a goal I had for myself,” the 38-year-old said.
Looking back on his time at Wapakoneta, from a pair of teachers that served as “moms” to him during his first year teaching and administrators who mentored him to assistant principal Jason Kline, who died from cancer and served as a big influence, Rex said he has nothing but fond memories.
“The nice thing about Wapak is they try to find people they think are leaders to groom into the next spot,” said Rex, who learned much from Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner and Operations Director Mike Watt.
Horner described Rex as a strong and talented leader, who takes pride in what he does.
“We will certainly miss his leadership in the high school and district,” Horner said.
An “idea guy,” Horner said Rex would bounce ideas off him and vice versa.
“He wasn’t afraid of a challenge and had courage,” Horner said. “Not very many people want to do this job (be superintendent). Someone with his talent, people will see that.”
Horner said not only will the district miss Rex, but they will miss his family, too.
“We are losing three good kids as well,” Horner said.
Reflecting on his time here, he paraphrases former Ohio State Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel, Rex said “Make the place you are the best it can be, then go make the next place the best it can be.
“I hope I made Wapakoneta better while I was here, and now I am going to go there and do that.”