Antioho begins part-time work as evaluator after nine years as high school principal

Former Reed City High School principal Tom Antioho
Former Reed City High School principal Tom Antioho

REED CITY — When Tom Antioho walked into classrooms at Reed City Area Public Schools this school year, he stepped into a new role in the district.

After a nine-year tenure as the Reed City High School principal, Antioho now serves the district part time as the District Evaluation Specialist. On Antioho’s suggestion, the Board of Education voted at a June board meeting to restructure administrative duties, saving the district around $80,000. The restructure included Superintendent Steve Westhoff taking on the responsibilities of high school principal in addition to his duties as superintendent.

Antioho began in his new 85-day part-time position at the beginning of October evaluating district staff members. His sole duty in the district is classroom observation and evaluation for the district’s 85 staff members, a duty that was previously handled by each building’s principal.

“Everyone’s doing more with less. Their plates are full,” Antioho said. “So not to have to do staff evaluations, gives administrators a better opportunity for appropriate school management. In the past, in all honesty, we didn’t have time to complete evaluations to the degree they needed to be done.”

As District Evaluation Specialist, Antioho will spend around five hours in each classroom, observing teacher instruction and curriculum implementation. Drawing from more than 30 years of experience in education, he will offer input and suggestions on each teacher’s performance.

“The whole idea behind evaluation is to see progress,” Antioho said. “It’s an objective look at methodologies, relationship building, student engagement and content following.”

The new process adds consistency to the evaluation process, Westhoff said, with one person completing all the evaluations instead of three individuals completing them differently.

“In the past we’ve always had someone different (completing evaluations) at the high school, middle school and elementary,” Westhoff said. “When you talk about rating systems and subjectivity, we feel this way is going to be much more consistent.”

Antioho began his new job in his former workplace, evaluating high school staff, and will move on to evaluate elementary school staff in November and middle school staff in December. He will repeat the process in 2013.

Though he does not spend as much time with students as he did when he was the high school principal, he said the new position creates other valuable opportunities for student interaction.

“I have a completely different opportunity to create a different relationship than I did when I was the boss,” Antioho said. “Now I’m not the disciplinarian so now the relationships are much more open and friendly.”

Affectionately called “Mr. A” by high school students, students fondly remember their time spent interacting with the former administrator on a daily basis.

“I really miss Mr. A,” said Elisa Fastbender, RCHS junior. “He was really personal with students. He made every single one of us feel welcome.”

When the past principal came into her class earlier this month to evaluate her teacher, she was happy to see him again.

Mariah Cowsert, a high school senior, remembers a game her friends played with Antioho.

“He would buy them a candy bar and they’d buy him hot chocolate,” Cowsert said. “They went back and forth and for Christmas he gave them a couple dollars on a Wesco card for them to get hot chocolate. It was really cute.”

Special relationships with students and treating them each as individuals is what made Antioho an exemplary high school principal, said Westhoff.

“Mr. A is a great communicator. He had great relationships with all of the kids. He is a person who cares about kids and wants to see them do well,” Westhoff said. “He takes an interest in knowing them as individuals. He gets to know them on a first name basis, he gets to know about their families, he gets to know their desires. That’s the strength of any educator, because kids know that you care when you put that amount of time and that amount of interest into getting to know them.”

As an official retiree, Antioho said he is enjoying the extra time he gets to spend at his home in Grand Haven.

“There’s an awful lot of home maintenance that I didn’t get to,” he said, jokingly. “I have grandchildren and they’re very special. I get to spend more time with them now.”

Westhoff, who took over the high school principal duties, said though his own schedule now is much busier, the changes in the district are going smoothly.

“I think the transition has gone well. One of the positive aspects for me is the increased interaction with students,” Westhoff said. “That’s one of the things that I missed when I went to central office years ago. ”

Westhoff said if the process of having a sole district evaluator proves successful, he would not be surprised if other districts chose to create the same position.

“We’re just starting this process and we think it is going to be a great experience and we’re going to have very positive results,” Westhoff said. “With Tom doing all of the evaluating, it has freed up our other administrators to deal with other things such as curriculum development and issues that are important to students.”

Continuing to adjust to his new position, Antioho said though his title has changed, he still is fulfilling the reason he entered the education business.

“I truly enjoy the time with the staff and the students at Reed City,” Antioho said. “I got in the business long ago because I wanted to make an impact on someone’s life. Now I impact teacher improvement.”