By Kevin Kelley
Westlake City Schools Superintendent Dan Keenan announced Thursday that he is resigning July 31 to become executive director of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, a Cleveland-based organization that provides grants to support public education in Ohio.
Keenan made the announcement at a special meeting Thursday night of the Board of Education scheduled for members to vote on a new, one-year contract with the teachers union. The contract, which gives no pay raise and freezes step increases, passed unanimously.
During the superintendent’s report section of the meeting, Keenan read the contents of a letter addressed to district employees announcing his move. The letter was simultaneously sent to employees via e-mail.
“The Westlake City Schools has an established tradition of excellence,” Keenan said. “I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of that tradition and to have played a role in our students’ success.”
Keenan’s announcement surprised many who attended the meeting. Amy Butcher, the president of the teachers union, told West Life she had not been told of the superintendent’s pending departure before his announcement. Westlake High School Principal Tim Freeman and Lee Burneson Middle School Principal Dave Wilson both said they learned of Keenan’s decision earlier on Thursday.
Keenan said he and his family will continue to reside in Westlake.
Board President Carol Winter said the district will work diligently to find a successor who is the right fit for Westlake. Winter and other board members thanked Keenan for his service and wished him well in his new job.
Board members clearly do not want to see Keenan leave.
“I hate to see you go but I think it’s a great opportunity for you and your family,” board member Barb Leszynski told Keenan. She also apologized to Keenan for remarks made by anonymous groups that have been critical of the district and public school financing in recent years.
By all accounts, Keenan is popular with teachers and parents. In October, Keenan was selected as the Buckeye Association of School Administrators as Ohio Superintendent of the Year for 2014.
Hired to lead the Westlake district in 2007, Keenan holds a doctorate in education administration from Cleveland State University and completed graduate work for principal and assistant superintendent certification at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned his master’s in education administration and his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Purdue University.
Before coming to the Westlake City Schools, Keenan was assistant superintendent for the Kenston Local Schools. He previously served as a high school administrator and director of personnel for the Maple Heights City Schools, a teacher and director of guidance for Steubenville City Schools, and a junior high and elementary school teacher in the state of Indiana.
The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation was founded in 1959 and today has assets of roughly $70 million. The foundation provides $3 million to $4 million in grants each year to Ohio primary and secondary schools and teachers. Keenan has served on the board that awards those grants for the past four years.