NILES SCHOOLS Retiring after a long history

The retiring facilities supervisor pointed to the new middle school as one of his proudest accomplishments.
NILES -- A new beginning for the school district caps a 37-year career in public education.
Bill Leonard, 59, supervisor of facilities and operations for the district, will retire effective Aug. 1. School district officials said Leonard's 37 years with the schools makes him the longest-serving district employee.
"I enjoyed all of it," Leonard said. "It was nice to finish up with the building of a new middle school that will benefit the community and children in the community for a number of years."
He worked on the application, along with Robert Marino Jr., Edison Junior High School principal, that was filed with the state to obtain Ohio School Facilities Commission funds for the new school building. School officials broke ground on the new school in Brynhyfryd Park in May.
It's expected to open for classes in the fall of 2002 and will replace the 87-year-old junior high school on Church Street. The 93,000-square-foot new middle school will house students in grades six through eight.
Total project cost is $14,004,015. Voters passed a bond issue in 1999 to fund the $5.88 million local share. A grant from the Ohio School Facilities Commission will pay for the remainder.
"When we were finally notified that we were chosen [to receive state funding], it was gratifying," Leonard said.
Starting out: He spent the last five years as the facilities supervisor but started his career in front of a classroom teaching history at Niles McKinley High School. He also worked as the school's attendance officer and district athletic director.
Michael Lastic, principal at Niles McKinley, grew up with Leonard and started at the district 35 years ago. The two played sports together, their classrooms were next to each other when they were teachers and their sons are friends.
"We've had a good time through the years," Lastic said.
Leonard was the quarterback of the football team his senior year at Niles McKinley when the team started its 48-game winning streak. He also was the captain of the basketball team in 1960 when the team advanced to the regional finals.
"One thing you have to say about Bill is that he's competitive," Lastic said. "That's what made him the great athlete that he was."
Lastic jokes about his longtime friend's title. When Leonard initially was named to his most recent post, the position was called "facilitator," Lastic said.
"I gave him such a hard time about that: 'Ooh, here comes the facilitator,'" he said.
Public education has seen a lot of changes during the last 37 years, but Leonard said the basic elements haven't varied much.
"Kids are pretty much the same," he said. "They're looking for discipline. In most cases, they're willing to learn, anxious to learn. I've enjoyed working with children."
Following advice: Leonard urges young people entering the education field to follow the advice of more experienced teachers. His enjoyment working with children and the coaches and some of the teachers who taught him as a Niles student prompted him to pursue a career in education. He played football for Tony Mason and basketball for Joe Bassett while in high school.
Leonard, plans to work with his brothers, Bob and Dick, and their wives at McMenamy's Banquet Center, U.S. Route 422. The three brothers own the facility and plan to add a restaurant. McMenamy is their mother's maiden name.
He said he appreciates the faculty members and administrators he's worked with who have helped him do his job.
Besides working at the family business, he plans to hit the golf course with his newfound free time.
His wife, Mary Ann, a second-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School, will continue to teach for a few more years, he said. He'll also watch the progress of the new school building.
"I'll be around," he said.

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