5 questions with Middletown Schools’ new superintendent, Marlon Styles

The new leader of Middletown Schools wants to raise the schools by tapping into the community’s underlying “Middie Pride” still dormant in some corners of the city.

The hiring last week of 38-year-old Marlon Styles Jr. — one of the youngest school superintendents in the history of Southwest Ohio school systems — was the latest major change for the Butler County district.

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The former Lakota Local Schools official was a rising star in that district and will soon be the first, permanent African American superintendent in Middletown’s history.

Momentum is picking up for other historical changes.

Work is continuing on a $96 million transformation of the Middletown High School campus that includes the building of a new middle school and a massive renovation of the adjacent high school.

The two schools will be connected by a new gym and athletic center. The two projects are scheduled to be completed in 2018, though some high school classroom spaces were opened this spring and more will be in the fall.

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And after much public discussion, a new strategic plan was adopted by the Middletown school board this year in hopes of serving as a blue print for turnaround of the district.

Styles, who begins working part-time in June for Middletown and full-time Aug. 1, shared some of his thinking with the Journal-News.

1. Why did you pursue the Middletown Schools superintendent job?

“My attraction to Middletown Schools centered on the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the community, the pursuit of instructional excellence found in the strategic plan, and the excitement of the community and district to live Middie Pride. I want to be a positive role model for the Middletown students.”

2. Even though it’s early, what areas of action are making their way to the top of your to-do list?

“Certainly a top priority is to increase student achievement — so modernizing instruction is key. Collaborating with the educational leaders of the district to align our strategic efforts will be a focus. Establishing a strong connection with the community is very important to me. This includes investing in the development of valuable partnerships with various stakeholder groups. My focus will be on both learning and strengthening the culture of the district.”

3. What have you developed and seen at Lakota that you may apply in Middletown Schools?

“Middletown already has many successes to celebrate and be proud of. I am excited to explore how we can inspire innovation to maximize opportunities for students to be successful. The five goal areas identified in the district’s strategic planning process (academic excellence; student wellness; family wellness; valuing diversity; communication & community engagement) will serve as the focal point of all stakeholder efforts. At Middletown, the staff and educational leaders are talented and passionate. I am anxious to support their passion and belief in our students.”

4. Describe the reception you’ve received from the Middletown school community and others so far and what those interactions have meant to you on a professional and emotional level?

“Middie Pride is contagious! The energy and passion I have felt from so many people is amazing. I was able to meet several students, and listen to why they are proud to go to school in Middletown. I match that with the support for the students I have observed from the staff and community, and it has energized me. I know that together, we will continue to believe in our students and be relentless in our efforts to help them reach their dreams.”

5. How do you plan to go about learning more about Middletown Schools?

“Growing positive relationships through engagement with individuals in the buildings and community is where I will begin. I am learning that this community loves Middie Pride. I believe listening to both students and adults will help me learn the culture of the district and community. Supporting our talented staff by building and inspiring more partnerships in the community, with the intent of providing our students with quality learning experiences, is my ultimate goal.”

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