Penta and Susor were a good fit for each other
Written by By DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Monday, 27 July 2009 09:10
Fred Susor knows Penta students. After all, they are young men and women "like me."
They are students who often have problems sitting still in class. As a student Susor, 62, always wanted to know "what relevance does this have to my life."
Serving those students has driven his 31-year career - "half my life" - at Penta.
The Penta superintendent, who is retiring this Friday, started his own work life early, doling out soft-serve ice cream at his parents' business when he was 11.
After graduating from Clay High School he did construction work to pay his way through a two-year computer program at the University of Toledo.
He got his first programming job, checking long string of numbers on punch cards. After two days he decided: "I'm going back to construction."
On the site, "I was like a sponge," he said. "I learned a lot about a lot."
He laid brick and block and did carpentry and wiring, mostly on residential projects though he did work remodeling cabins on freighters.
In 1970, he broke his leg in a snowmobile accident, and then anxious to get back to work took the cast off before the leg was fully healed.
The result was he couldn't work for about year. He enrolled in Bowling Green State University and ended up with certification to be an industrial arts teacher.
He was hired to teach a Northwood High School - and then didn't show up for training the morning of what would be his first day of work.
He confided to his construction boss that he was having second thoughts, but his boss told him he should try it. Despite the shock of finding out how little he made as a teacher, he continued in education, though he still did construction work on the side.
He became Northwood's Occupational Work Adjustment teacher, helping students who had problems working within the traditional school setting.
"I felt the best place for them was Penta," he said. When he was hired to teach carpentry at Penta in 1978, he found it was the best place for himself as well.
"It fit my personality. It fit my thought process."
Susor moved up through the ranks to assistant supervisor for construction trades, directing adult education, assistant superintendent, then in 1995 becoming superintendent.
All through it, Susor would constantly remind himself why he came to teach at Penta in the first place. "This is a great place for a kid to get started, especially the kid having trouble sitting still in class," he said. "You can have an academically gifted kid... here they just need to find something to turn them on."
Seeing those student "make something of themselves... that's a teacher's greatest accomplishment."
Many of those students, about 90, helped to build the new Penta Career Center in Perrysburg Township.
That project had its roots in 1999 when Susor, Treasurer Carrie Herringshaw and Tim Davis, director of operations, started discussing the future of the school. Penta was spending $500,000 every summer maintaining the old campus on the site of an old Army depot.
The school used a "hodgepodge" of ways to try to meet increasing state academic demands and keep up with rapidly evolving technology. The verdict of the consultants hired to look at the facility was clear, Susor said: "You can't get to where you want to go with what you've got."
Susor shepherded the $90 million project through with the new 522,000-square-foot state-of-the-art school opening for classes in August, a year ahead of schedule.
He had the qualities to help lead the effort.
Herringshaw said that Susor's not one to sit in his office. "He has always made a practice to visit the labs on a regular basis." That, she added, "has been a huge benefit in designing the building because he knows what happens in the labs."
Davis, who has worked closely with Susor, following him as director of adult education before being appointed to the newly created position of director of operations, said Susor always gives people "a lot of leeway... he's not a micro-manager."
Davis, a Penta graduate, said both he and Susor are "career tech people." The superintendent "is not afraid of getting his hands dirty," even going so far as getting on a forklift to help clear a shop.
The new building has helped to attract more attention to Penta's programs. "I think it's added a level of acceptance that we didn't have before," Susor said. "It's given people an opportunity to take a look at something they'd never would have looked at before."
He has also advocated for career education statewide, having served on numerous boards including as president of the of the Ohio Association of Joint Vocational School Superintendents and locally on the Wood County Economic Development Commission.
With the new school open and functioning well, it was an ideal time for his retirement.
Actually, Gov. Ted Strickland's State of the Schools presentation helped decide the matter for him. He knew helping Penta and vocational education maneuver through another overhaul of state school regulations and funding would take a commitment of at least three years. Susor couldn't make that commitment.
At his final board meeting, he stated: "When the governor talks about evidence-based education, he needs to come here."
Susor said he'll miss the people he works with the most, and expects at some point he'll get another job.
But for the next six months he'll devote time to activities that have taken a back seat during his yeas as superintendent - "a little hunting, a little fishing, snowmobiling."
And then there's a "honey-do list" waiting for him at home. "I won't pay someone to do what I can do myself," he said. "I never got rid of my tools."
Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2009 10:14