Short reflects on long career at Perrysburg High School

PERRYSBURG — With 17 years as principal, Michael Short’s retirement from Perrysburg High School will be
one of many rings of a tree that keeps growing after he leaves.
“The thing that makes this place special is the people. Every school has walls and desks, but it’s the
kids and the interactions. We’re in a symbiotic relationship with the kids,” Short said. “My favorite
part — the people. It’s the students and the staff.”
He started in August 2004. Prior to that, for four years he was an assistant principal at Bedford High
School in Temperance.
At Bedford, there were four assistant principals, each in charge of a class. Short took on the added
responsibility of working with the special needs kids.
“We realized we were spending a lot of time with those kids and they were across grade levels,” he said.
“The group was getting four different reactions, with the assistant principles and each took a different
spin on what took place.”
He put them all together, for consistency of school culture and policy for the families.
His first administrative experience was as a principal at Stryker Elementary.
“It was eye opening, from the standpoint that I was a fish out of water, in an elementary building. I had
taught high school English and video production, and one year when my wife was on maternity leave I
taught drama,” Short said.
That job also led to his having a family. Three years after taking that job he married to theater
teacher. She encouraged him to look at administration. One of his Bowling Green State University
professors recommended the position at Stryker.
“It was my niche. It really was the thing that solidified in me my passion for education,” Short said.
“The fact that I could do more than being in a classroom affecting 120 kids, and I could make decisions
that would affect nearly 2,000 students, that to me was what I was really called to do.”
He said two jobs most prepared him to be a principal: Umpire for 16 years and the entertainment director
for six years at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.
“Having passionate fans yell at me about a decision, and then be able to walk away and concentrate on the
next pitch,” he said. “It’s taking the information in front of me and then moving on. It’s a constant as
a high school principal.”
At the festival he was in charge of 250 performers on multiple stages and walking the crowds of 14,000
patrons.
“One decision affects three other things. No decision is made in isolation,” Short said. “I think it’s
important that I had those experiences, that I didn’t just go from the college of education to the
classroom and then the principal’s office. I think when you find a successful principal, they have had
other experiences.”
There have been many changes in education in his years, the biggest is technology.
“I think it’s a beneficial one,” Short said. “Schools are no longer the depositories of information.”
They have become a place to learn how to manipulate information and make decisions, he said. The internet
provides the facts and school is no longer just rote memorization.
When he started at PHS, Short said the sports teams were on the verge of being thrown out of the Northern
Lakes League.
Short said that he was told that the kids were disrespectful and the fans were derogatory. He and Ray
Pohlman, then the new athletic director and now president of the school board, changed the culture of
the district to one promoting good sportsmanship and positivity.
“We’ve been the Golden Megaphone finalists for the OHSAA, as a positive spirit group five times now.
That’s something that I point to with pride. That’s a tradition that will carry on.”
Stretching across one long wall in his office is a huge whiteboard with a grid and colored squares of
paper with a name and numbers. That’s where next year’s class schedule is laid out.
“The board, it’s a work in progress,” Short said. “It’s a giant puzzle. It’s a painstaking process. Who’s
going to teach what?”
Perrysburg High School has about 1,700 students and 190 courses.
He will finish next year’s board along with Aaron Cookson, the new principal. Then he will move on.
Short and his wife, who have been married 27 years, are building a house in Tennessee. Both of his sons
are PHS graduates.
He plans to devote more time to his woodworking hobby.
“As a tree grows we see the progression of the growth rings. You can see in the rings when something has
impacted that tree. One year you can tell there has been a lot of rain and sun, because it’s allowed it
to really flourish that year. And there are other times when damage has been done to that tree,” Short
said. “As you get through it you see that things get better, they get better. While there was damage
done at some point, it’s recoverable.”