Tusky Valley alumnus Derek Varansky named new superintendent

Tusky Valley alumnus Derek Varansky named new superintendent

Image Credit: Lori Feeney

For a few years, Mark Murphy, the outgoing superintendent, said he would float the idea of taking over the position to Dr. Derek Varansky. Both Murphy and Varansky say, for quite a while, the answer was a firm “no.”

All of that changed on Aug. 1, but Varansky said his decision was not a hasty one. “It wasn’t a decision I could make on my own, so I talked with my wife and family. It was also a prayerful decision, asking, ‘Is this the door I’m supposed to go through? Is this the time?’ And overwhelmingly, I felt yes, it is.”

Varansky holds a master’s degree in education and has taught fourth-grade English, language arts and social studies. For the past six years, he has been the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and federal programs, but he also has served as the middle school’s dean of students.

Becoming a superintendent was never a career aspiration, according to Varansky, although he already had his superintendent’s license. “To do curriculum, you need to have the license, so that was really the only reason I had it,” he said. “I never thought of him stepping away.”

Varansky is no newcomer to the school district, having attended Tusky Valley from kindergarten to graduation. “I was a senior in high school when Mark took over here as superintendent, and it has been really cool to work with him closely,” he said. “This is my 11th year in the district, but to work closely with him for the past six years in the role of director of curriculum has been a blessing. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

A record of accomplishments

Like Murphy, Varansky comes with a long list of accomplishments of his own. In addition to overseeing all of the academic operations of the school district’s four schools, Varansky wrote the grant for the 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, which allowed the district to operate an after-school program for the past 10 years.

He also expanded the Project Lead the Way program at Tusky Valley to include all grades, not just grades 4-12. “We now have engineering and computer science modules all the way down to preschool. I believe we’re probably one of the only districts around that has it comprehensively,” he said.

Varansky also implemented the Biomed Project Lead the Way program. “We have a lot of students that leave here and enter the engineering field, the computer science field or the healthcare field, so we really saw a need there. And it came from talking with the teachers and asking questions,” he said.

Much of Varansky’s career has centered on literacy efforts, so it should come as no surprise the primary school was designated as a model site for early literacy by the Ohio Department of Education.

Big shoes to fill

When asked about the challenges he expects to face, Varansky started with what he thinks will be the biggest. “First of all, I am replacing somebody who was really well-loved,” he said. “But I’m also having to learn about things like building maintenance and transportation and other operations so I have the background knowledge to make good decisions on behalf of the district.”

Varansky, like Murphy, is not one to wait around for issues to present themselves. “One of the first things I did as curriculum director was to create a mobile office, so my office was in a different building once a week,” he said. “I don’t see why that would change now that I’m superintendent. You can’t lead from behind a desk. You can learn a lot about what’s really happening in school by being in the cafeteria and on the playground.”

Varansky said he has learned a great deal just by watching Murphy. “I observed how he reacted to situations and how he led through difficult situations, and it made me reflect on how I would handle the same issues. I’ve asked myself whether I would do it the same way, and usually, the answer is yes,” he said.

Family matters

Varansky said he could not have taken on the job without the support of his family. “My wife Heidi was super supportive of it. I think she knew I could do it more than I knew it myself,” he said.

The couple’s son Malachi will start first grade at Tusky Valley this fall, and daughter Makenna will start preschool. “It’s important that I include my family as much as possible, so when I go to football games and other school events, I can take them with me,” Varansky said.

“I’m excited and extremely grateful just to be in this new role. We have a phenomenal staff and a very loving and supportive community. I couldn’t ask for a better place to live, work and serve.”