By Denise Dick
After 39 years in vocational/ career-technical education, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center Superintendent Roan Craig is closing the book on that chapter of her life, retiring later this month.
“The next chapter is coming,” she said. “I don’t know what it is. I haven’t read it yet.”
Craig, a Youngstown native and Woodrow Wilson High School and Youngstown State University graduate, started as a business education teacher at the Mahoning County Joint Vocational School in 1975, just two years into the school’s operation. At that time, the school required business experience of its teachers, and Craig’s experience with a finance company fulfilled that requirement. She went on to earn her master’s degree at Kent State University and her doctorate at the University of Akron.
“I knew from the time I opened my mouth that I wanted to be a teacher,” Craig said. “My Aunt Cathy was a teacher, and I thought she was the greatest.”
The oldest of seven children, she used to play school with her as the teacher and her younger siblings, the students.
She spent four years teaching before taking time off for maternity leave. She returned as an adult education teacher and later became the school’s first customized training coordinator.
“I worked with business and industry, setting up workshops and training seminars to meet their needs,” Craig said.
She enjoyed the work, meeting many people from different walks of life.
Howard Friend, the school’s first superintendent, hired Craig.
“She was an excellent employee,” he said. “She was good with the students. They liked her. She was enthusiastic. She complied with the requirements from her supervisors. She was an excellent candidate as a teacher, and she did an outstanding job when she got the job.”
She shared his belief in the value of vocational educational, Friend said, and she’s also a leader. It came as no surprise to him that Craig rose to become superintendent.
In 1990, Craig went to Youngstown City Schools’ Choffin Career Center, where she had been a student teacher, working in its adult education department, in customized training and as its director.
“It was the right offer at the right time,” she said.
She got moved to Chaney High School in 1994 and stayed for two years, before returning as director of Mahoning County JVS in 1998.
“Again, it was the right offer at the right time,” she said.
When then-Superintendent Bob Thomas announced his retirement, she was tapped for the job.
She’s enjoyed every day of her tenure, she says.
“No two days are alike,” she said. “There’s very little routine work.”
Being a superintendent in the building allows her to know more students than a superintendent whose office is housed in a central office, away from the schools. It’s a relationship she’s enjoyed.
“I laugh every day because of these kids,” she said.
She has enormous respect for the staff as well, pointing to the care and compassion they demonstrate for students and student success. She enjoys seeing former students move on to successful careers. Some return to teach at MCCTC.
Her time in office saw the change from joint-vocational to career technical centers and the increased emphasis on academics that accompanied that shift.
“We probably offer more college credits than just about anybody,” she said.
Jane Hogan, MCCTC’s academic director for 11 years, characterized Craig as someone who is “very dynamic, very focused on the goals for the district” and the growth of her staff.
“She’s also a very compassionate person,” Hogan said.
When a fire damaged the center in 2007, the staff was grief-stricken, she said.
“She was very good about spending time with people, bringing in people to assist with the emotional upheaval and to give support because it was rough on our families as well and she got that,” Hogan said. “That’s pretty unusual.”
Craig also loves the students, she said.
“She always wanted to be a part of student and staff activities,” Hogan said. “She does not want to miss those.”
That makes a difference because it shows her support, Hogan said.
“It’s a hard transition for all of us to even picture MCCTC without her as superintendent,” she said. “She’s mentored us very well, and we’ll carry with us what she has developed as her legacy here.”
It’s a legacy of hard work, service to others and the ability to grow, Hogan said.
Craig says she’ll miss almost everything about her job.
“I will miss the work, the people, the kids,” she said. “I won’t miss working 50- to 60-hour weeks.” After spending so much time at work though, she wonders how she’ll fill her time.
She’ll spend time with her family, her husband, Kenneth, and two daughters, both teachers. One of her daughters, who lives in Florida is expecting her first child.
Craig will take a few months as vacation, visit with her new grandchild when he or she is born, spend some time with her many friends.
“I want to see what life is like when I’m not listening for the bell to ring,” she said.
Craig hasn’t decided what she’ll do next
“I don’t know if I’m done,” she said.
She’s toying with the idea of writing a book about the role strong families play in the success of children. She’s seen the effect strong families have on students versus those who don’t.
“Good families are so important,” Craig said.