XENIA — Denny Morrison has spent nearly half a century in education trying to do what’s best for kids.
So it should come as no surprise that even his decision to retire — which he announced prior to the end of this past school year — was done with kids in mind: his own, and the Xenia Community School District’s.
“It’s time for someone younger,” said Morrison, who turns 66 in July. “I know I’m slowing down. I just thought it was time to have the district go a different direction. I really believe it’s time for somebody younger to take over. (And) I just want to take some time with my wife and my girls and my grandchildren … do some things with them.”
But don’t expect Morrison to ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again. He promises to “be around” after his tenure officially ends July 31.
In reality, his presence will be felt in every school building in Xenia. Morrison was the driving force as the district made myriad changes to help improve its profile. Some of the changes were, in Morrison’s own words “bold,” such as moving long-time high school Principal Ted Holop to Warner Middle School and shifting Tecumseh Principal Jean Brady to the Xenia Preschool.
Others, like restructuring the central office, were made to help the various departments operate more smoothly.
“When they brought me in I said to them, ‘I don’t want to be here just to be a place holder,’ ” Morrison said. “They allowed me to do some things. Together we’ve done some pretty good things for the Xenia district and the Xenia community.”
Under Morrison’s watch, enrollment has increased dramatically. The district is well above what the state projected There were more than 200 students above what the state anticipated. As a result, Morrison and other administrators were able to add more programs and hire additional staff. That, in turn, enticed former students who were home-schooled or attending charter schools to re-enroll in Xenia.
“They’re coming back to us,” Morrison said.
Plans are to add up to 16 more positions next year, including teachers, aides, and potentially a pair of deans of students.
Morrison stressed that things aren’t perfect but he likes where XCS is heading.
He does have one regret as his tenure slowly comes to an end.
“The one thing where I feel like I failed the community is the bond issue because the kids deserve it,” he said, referring to the twice-defeated multi-million dollar project that involves construction a high school/middle school campus. It will be on the August special election ballot, but Morrison will already be retired.
And when he says retired, he means it. While Morrison said he would consider a part-time or short term opportunity to help if the right situation came about, he has no plans to re-enter the daily grind. In fact, he has already turned down overtures from several districts.
“I’ve got mixed emotions,” Morrison said. “I’m sad on the one had to be leaving.What a team Xenia has. The staff here, both administrative staff, the teaching staff, the classified folks, it’s just a great group. The last three and half years that I’ve been here I’ve enjoyed immensely. Everyone in Xenia has been terrific to me.”
Morrison saved the highest praise for the Xenia students.
“They’re just great kids,” he said. “They truly appreciate what others do for them.”
Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.