PERRYSBURG — After 45 years, Jeff Kurtz has finally left school.
Kurtz, long-time high school director at Penta Career Center, walked out the doors for the last time June 30 with only a briefcase.
His career has spanned 25 years with Toledo Public Schools, six in Sylvania and 14 with Penta.
“I’ve been blessed,” Kurtz said.
He taught middle school for four years then marketing education for nine years at Start High School.
His decision to go into administration came after taking on more duties to supplement his teaching duties.
“I liked it. I like working with people. I like bringing people together to try to collaborate and solve problems and so I thought it was a natural move for me.”
When Kurtz was hired by Penta in 2006, the career center was still located at the former Army depot in Rossford, which is now part of Owens Community College.
“That campus was wonderful, and it served its purpose and trained so many young people, but clearly it was a stark contrast to here with all of the state of the art (environment). It raised the entire culture, the energy of the place. So many opportunities have been afforded to young people here.”
Superintendent Ed Ewers said it was his opinion that Kurtz made Penta Career Center what it is, with his influence in hiring teachers and supervisors and great rapport with students.
Ewers said Kurtz has left his stamp on the organization.
“Jeff really is one of the finest administrators I ever worked with,” said Ewers, who has been with Penta since 2015.
Ryan Lee was named Kurtz’s successor last fall and Ewers said he has full confidence in the new leadership.
Kurtz said his skill set is the ability to work with students and teachers to build a sense of community within a school building.
“That was one of the goals that Fred had when I transitioned here. … I think I’ve been successful in that.”
Former Superintendent Fred Susor reportedly said on Kurtz’s hire, “Jeff’s varied and successful background as a principal of high schools with career technical programs will help lead Penta in a positive direction as we prepare for the future. … We know he will be dedicated in serving the best interests of the staff and students at Penta.”
Kurtz recalled talking to Susor, who asked him to stay five years. As a retire/rehire – he retired from Sylvania in 2006 – staying longer than five years at Penta was not expected.
Among the goals that Kurtz set was to hire the right teachers, who understood the importance of teaching and learning.
“It’s been a nice legacy for me, knowing that my goal was to get the right people here, all working together in the area of teaching and learning.”
The stigma that used to follow the mention of Penta has morphed into the knowledge that the career center is a leader in teaching and learning as well as professional development, Kurtz said.
“However, I think there is still a stigma. We still fight those stereotypes. I think one of our biggest challenges is getting students to leave their member schools where they feel comfortable. But I think Penta is starting to realize that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”
Pursuing a technical career does not mean severing all ties with a home school, Kurtz said.
There is now a recognition in education that what is done in career technical education is the way schools are transitioning, he said.
Popular programs at Penta continue to be medical technologies and cosmetology as well as manufacturing such as welding.
Kurtz also has seen a resurgence in the construction trades and small animal care.
“These last two years, I’ve had the luxury of spending a lot of time interacting with kids and teachers and administrators and it has been wonderful.”
That interaction with students is what he will miss the most.
“Without a doubt that opportunity to build relationships, that what I enjoy the most.”
Kurtz is a graduate of the University of Toledo, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as his education specialist degree.
In October, when Kurtz announced his intent to retire, then-Superintendent Ron Matter said he would be missed.
“There are so many initiatives that Jeff Kurtz has been a part of and led for us at Penta, it would take the whole meeting to share them with you. He is a true instructional leader in every sense of the word and Penta Career Center has greatly benefited from his leadership,” Matter said.
Kurtz will continue working in some capacity but is looking forward to spending more time with his three grandchildren, who live in Sylvania. His other two children are in Georgia and California.
“I hope that I can still be a resource for people.”
Being a teacher and principal at Start High School, his alma mater, was a dream come true — as was finishing his career at Penta.
“I’ve had a wonderful 45-year career. I cannot think of anything I would have rather done. If I had to go back now and redo my career … I’d want to do exactly what I was doing.”