Gray reflects on his educational journey

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Mike Gray proudly stands beside this photo which is of him and three of the former superintendents at the ESC. A picture frame on another wall in the room at ESC has the remainder of the superintendents' pictures in it. Jim Atchley took Gray's place six months ago upon his retirement. (Linda Moody photo)

ARCANUM—”Forty-five years in education; it was time to get out,” remarked Mike Gray, who retired July 31, 2022, as superintendent of the Darke County Educational Service Center (ESC).

He went on, “I miss the people and all that. It was really good.”

Gray, who replaced John Montgomery from the Tri-Village area as ESC superintendent 18 years ago, said he chose education as his lifelong career while in college.

Gray, a 1972 graduate of Arcanum High School, met his wife, the former Diane Moore, a graduate of Franklin Monroe (F-M) High School, in college at Bowling Green State University, from where he graduated in 1977 with his bachelor’s degree in education.

His wife, also a teacher (mostly elementary), retired with 43 years in education and is now a substitute almost everyday in classes at Franklin-Monroe and Arcanum.

Mike, who will celebrate his 69th birthday on Jan. 29, said his first job was teaching physical education and science as well as coaching freshman basketball and junior high track for a year for Ansonia Local Schools.

“I remember the 1978 blizzard,” he said.

The next year, he went to F-M, teaching physical education and science and coaching seventh- and eight-grade basketball.

“My brother, Dave, became principal at F-M and I went to grades 7-12 in phys ed. and health and coached varsity basketball ,” continued Mike, who also became athletic director there.

He said he then made the big move to Brookville High School, where he was assistant principal and athletic director for a year, after which he became the junior high principal there for four years.

Following that, he became superintendent of Mississinawa Valley Schools, serving there four years, before returning to Ansonia as its superintendent for four or five years…until his next venture, the ESC superintendency.

All the while serving in that capacity, the Greene County superintendent was ready to quit and urged Mike to go for that position as well. He obliged, having both offices for five years.

Returning then to just his Darke County office, he was asked to do the same for Preble County ESC, so he did that for four years.

How did he juggle all of that?

“It works if someone is there everyday to be an assistant,” Gray said.
Overall, he said it has been a really good career.

“We got them where they needed to be,” he said of the Greene and Preble county assignments. “I loved my board here. The ESC family is good to work with, and the 18 years with all of the county superintendents were awesome.”

Gray is the middle child of five born to Sara (O’Dell) Gray, who is now living in the Middletown area, and the late Carl “Bud ” Gray, who was Arcanum’s fire chief for many years.

His brother. Ned. is a coach for Franklin Monroe; and Dave, of course, was superintendent at F-M. His sisters are Becky and Brenda. He pointed out that Brenda played on a basketball team at Arcanum which went to the state tournament.

Mike and Diane are the parents of two children, Kip, Erin and Haley. Kip teaches at Arcanum, and his wife, Mallory, teaches at F-M. And, there are five grandchildren, which they truly enjoy.

Mike, who went on to get his degree for school administration at the University of Dayton, said his own high school days went “pretty good” grade-wise and he was active in basketball and baseball.

“In 1969, Arcanum won the state in basketball and I was an alternate. Dave was a senior, scoring 45 points, a record that still holds at the school,” he said.
When Mike visits the Darke ESC now, he said it’s neat to see the school superintendents and keep up on how they’re doing.

The ESC has a staff of 70 who provide services to most of the other county schools, such as psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, as well as to Anthony Wayne Early Childhood, where all of the teachers and aides are ESC employees as well.

At ESC, there is also a curriculum person at ESC who provides professional development and training principals, and the county program provides curriculum, pupil and the technology services.

Who was Mike’s mentor throughout the years?

“Jim Boomershine, who was superintendent at F-M and now residing east of Columbus, helped my brother Dave and me to become superintendents,” he replied.

Mike said his favorite teacher of all times was Gene Cullers.

“He was at Arcanum and was my first basketball coach,” Mike said. “He was great.”

Gray’s successor at Darke County ESC is Jim Atchley, who followed in Gray’s footsteps from Ansonia to where he is now, and Gray is proud of that fact…just like he is on his educational and coaching career.