Superintendent Craig Heath delivered 
annual State of the Schools Address January 23rd, 2024.
Superintendent Craig Heath delivered annual State of the Schools Address January 23rd, 2024.
Loren Wandersleben

State Of The Schools Address

Superintendent Craig Heath reflects on the schools over the past year

What is the Annual State of the Schools Address?

Each year, the superintendent of Mentor Schools updates local business representatives, government officials, and the broader community on the school district’s progress over the past year. This year’s address was Mr. Heath’s second time delivering the presentation to the community since assuming the role of superintendent in 2022. During the approximately hour-long presentation, Mr. Heath emphasized four pillars that showcased the contributions of various attendees, including the efforts of the Mentor Police Department and Lakeland’s CCP program, among others. The primary focus of the presentation, however, was on highlighting the daily success experienced of Mentor students.


The first pillar of Mr. Heath’s presentation was education. He discussed in depth of his desire to ensure that students of Mentor Schools are excelling both academically and emotionally. With this, he reiterated to the crowd how the district earned a 4 ½ star rating this year; this is a large accomplishment for the district as the high rating that a district can achieve is a 5. He attributes some of this success to the COVID-19 relief funds because the district was able to hire multiple new teachers to assist in aiding the students with learning gaps that accumulated during the pandemic. With this, he adds that due to the increase in help to students, third-grade reading tests rose 12% from the previous year.

Superintendent Heath Begins His Presentation WIth The First Pillar, Education (Loren Wandersleben)

Adding on, Mr. Heath reiterates the core values and importance at each level of schooling in the district. At the elementary level he reminded the audience of the importance of the core studies of English, math, science, and social studies; along with other essentials such as art, music, physical education, and STEM. At the middle school level, he mentioned the importance of those same subjects but also discussed the importance of reaching out with multiple new courses available to middle school students. Finally, with the high school students, he promoted the over 240 courses offered to the students which include not only the normal core subjects but also electives and much more.

At the high school level, he highlighted how Mentor Schools provide multiple pathways for students. For example, Mentor High School provides several AP (Advanced Placement) classes where students can earn college credits through high school classes. Additionally, he talked about the CCP (College Credit Plus) program which allows students to take college classes and earn credits whilst being enrolled in high school. Lastly, he talked about Mentor High School’s CTE (Career Technical Education) program where students can have hands-on experience in career fields that interest them and also gain certifications that qualify them for the workforce right after high school.

Building on the CTE program, Mr. Heath mentioned the success stories that have followed the program. He shared with the group that 98.3% of students enrolled in the CTE program have gone on to either college, the military, or the workforce. From these programs, students have found success; for example, many students in the Administration and Business program have gone on to do large internships during high school which sometimes transfer over to adulthood. With this great success, he added that a record-high 38% of juniors and seniors at the high school are enrolled in a CTE-sponsored course.

With such a large amount of students now taking CTE courses, there have been long waiting lists for these courses. Due to this, Mentor High School has created the “Career Academies” to open new options for students. These “Career Academies” are revamped electives where students can now earn certificates and credentials. These courses are only one mod and is less of a time commitment for students who do not have the ability to participate in CTE programs due to time constraints. One of the “Career Academies” that are now available is the “Aviation Academy” where students can learn about aviation and drones. With these courses, Mr. Heath hopes to allow students more opportunities that connect them to hands-on learning that will lead them to appropriate future careers.

Lastly, Mr. Heath touched on the CCP program and the extent to which the program has grown over the past year. He explained how the program accommodates a now staggering 60% of Mentor High School students. Due to this, Mentor High School will now be adding CCP classes into the Paradigm this fall. This will allow students who could previously not attend CCP classes due to transportation or other circumstances to now attend the classes.

With that, Mr. Heath ended this section of his presentation by reiterating that he hopes to help each student find their pathway for the future. 


Building on the education part of his presentation, Mr. Heath went in-depth about the safety of Mentor Public Schools. To begin this portion, he mentioned that this past summer Mentor High School hosted a large-scale drill for the police department to train on how to react to an emergency situation. Additionally, Mr. Heath emphasizes that along with the police training, the City of Mentor and the district have had frequent meetings concerning the safety of the students in the district. 

To ensure the safety of students across the district, Mr. Heath announced that at least one police officer is stationed at each middle school and high school. Then Mr. Heath mentioned how police would be introduced into the elementary schools on a rolling schedule of four hours. 

Mentor Community Networks Before the Presentation

Additionally, Mr. Heath mentioned that with a safety audit that was conducted, the Mentor Schools District received one million dollars of funding from the state. With this funding, the district updated many aspects of the school’s security technology. One of these improvements consisted of new security cameras on all school buildings. Beforehand, many of the security cameras did not reach all areas of the schools or did not work. Now, each school’s perimeter is seen by the cameras and are new. Along with the cameras, the school district invested in almost 900 new radios. With these new radios, anybody with a radio anywhere will be able to contact each other. This new addition makes the district safer and communication during unsafe situations. 

Along with the new funding for security, Mr. Heath shared how the Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, and his wife visited the district. Mike DeWine visited the district to look at Mentor’s busing situation as Mentor is an exemplary example of bus safety in Ohio. At his visit, he even announced that he would be forming a task force on bus safety to ensure the safety of students on transportation.

Lastly, Mr. Heath touched on the topic of social and emotional safety. He discussed how the district is continuing to crack down on digital safety and monitoring of technology. Additionally, he mentioned the partnership between the district and organizations such as NAMI and Cross Roads. With NAMI, he explains how the organization has been doing continuous presentations to students on depression and suicide with the hopes of helping students understand that they are not alone. Along with that, Mr. Heath touched on how Cross Roads counselors are in all Mentor schools now, providing help to all students in the districts. Mr. Heath then mentioned his last point on the new program “Start With Hello” which is a program that the district has been promoting that is centered around stopping social isolation.


This pillar mainly focused on Mentor Schools Funding and the cost-saving initiatives that are being implemented throughout the district. Despite resource constraints, Superintendent Heath recognized that spending exceeds income in his presentation. He highlighted the fact that Mentor Schools primarily rely on local property taxes and support from the large business community. 

Ohio School Report Card

The passing of Issue 4 was emphasized, securing 5.5 million dollars in funding every year for the next five years. Mentor Schools are ranked third in Lake County, a high performance in educational aspects, offering a great return on investment academically, Furthermore, the property taxes of Mentor are ranked third lowest, which means property tax rates are comparatively lower than those in other areas of Lake County. Some challenges are acknowledged, particularly with the failure of the Permanent Improvement Levy which was also discussed in Superintendent Heath’s presentation. 

The financial overview reveals that the current Permanent Improvement Levy does not cover buildings, providing only a million dollars annually. Capital improvement planning has been evaluated, resulting in a decision to cut five million dollars over the next five years. This deficit spending situation necessitates difficult choices for Mentor Schools.

There were some solutions provided for cost-saving initiatives that would be taken in the district as well. These include proportionally reducing staff in accordance with student enrollment, closing and selling school buildings, engaging in redistricting efforts, altering benefits plans for employees, implementing budget cuts, and exploring alternative revenue sources. Additionally, securing grant monies is considered as part of the strategy to address financial challenges and support the sustainability of Mentor Schools.

The presentation concluded with positive aspects, such as receiving awards for audit transparency and a clean audit for 2023.  


Finally, Mr. Heath discussed the importance of community in his last pillar. He talked through ways the school district engages with the rest of the Mentor community and how the sense of community built within Mentor schools leads to student success. Mr. Heath discussed a variety of efforts by the school community to give back to Mentor, and a new initiative designed to increase transparency and connection with the Mentor community. Additionally, he recognized the achievements of many student groups this past year. 

Mr. Heath discussed Mentor Schools’ partnership with United Way of Lake County. Through this partnership, the Mentor Schools District has helped countless families to obtain fresh produce. This partnership has also seen the Coats for Cards program which provides many families with the winter coats they need as Northeast Ohio experiences another characteristically cold and icy winter. 

The Cardinal Connect website is a new initiative that aims to provide easy access to important information from the district. This includes updates about changes in the school calendar such as calamity days and preplanned remote learning days. It also provides information on other ways to stay connected, including links to the Mentor Public Schools’ social media handles and a mailing list to subscribe to. Furthermore, the website also aims to improve and establish business partnerships. This is done through an easily accessible form linked on the Cardinal Connect website that interested businesses can fill out. Much of the website is up and running with ready-to-use resources, but many tabs are still labeled with “Coming Soon!”, an indication of its “in-development” status. 

You can visit the Cardinal Connect website here.

Finally, Mr. Heath brought attention to the achievements of many different students in the district. This past year was a big year for the arts in Mentor. The Mentor Theatre program won many Rotary Awards and will celebrate its 100th season this year. The Top 25 program performed to a variety of Mentor community members and peers, and the Fighting Cardinal Marching band – almost 200 members strong – received a superior rating at state contest this fall. It was an important year for academic extracurriculars too with every Mentor High Science Olympiad team qualifying for states. Also, a fourth grader at Orchard Hollow has gone on to win the Spelling Bee at the school, district, county, and tri-county level and will now go on to compete in Washington, DC. Overall, there were 582 graduates from the class of 2023 last year, three of whom were honored at the Military Commitment Ceremony and there were a few more who attended the Athletic Signing Ceremony. Overall, Mr. Heath believes it to have been a year of great student achievement. 

Reactions – What did the community think?

Cardinal Nation interviewed key figures of the Mentor community to find out their thoughts on Superintendent Heath’s address

Mr. Heath, Superintendent

Cardinal Nation: Are there any challenges or obstacles that you are concerned about in the district? 

Craig Heath, Superintendent

Craig Heath: Well, I think funding is always going to be one of those challenges and making sure that we’ve got enough money to cover all of the programming that we want to do. We obviously are in great shape for those things that we have to do, but I think that’s always going to be one of those things kind of riding in the back of our minds. How do we continue to increase funding, make our costs a little bit more efficient so that we can really make sure that we’re getting as much money into those programs that are going to benefit students as possible.

Cardinal Nation: And has your perspective as superintendent changed over the past year and a half working here? 

Craig Heath: I don’t think it’s changed so much. I think I’ve just continued to be impressed on how well our students do, the opportunities that our teachers are creating for our kids, and really the connections that we’re able to make with our community right now too. I knew coming to this district, that career technical education was a huge part of what we do, and that’s what intrigued me about this place. But l’ve been really, really excited about how quickly some of the ideas that I was bringing from central Ohio are being kind of embraced and implemented here as well. So, yeah, I’m just really excited about our opportunities here now in Mentor. 

Cardinal Nation: And then what’s your overall reaction about the overall State of the Schools Address this year? 

Craig Heath: It’s always a great opportunity to bring all of the important people in our business community here to be able to share some of those good connections that we already have, and then some of those things that we want to continue to develop. I just got through talking with another business partner who hasn’t been involved with us yet that wants to start creating some internship opportunities for our kids. So that’s one of the strong things about the State of the Schools Address is being able to make those connections and build on those here for the future.

Bill Wade, Chief Financial Officer, Mentor Schools

Cardinal Nation: So how will the financial plan support improvements in education and student success in the district? 

Bill Wade, Mentor Schools Treasurer

Bill Wade: We always use our strategic plan to determine how we’re going to focus everything that we do. The strategic plan drives our purchases. So we make sure that our budget aligns to the goals that we have in our strategic plan. Mr. Heath and his team work very hard to make sure that they have a plan of what we’re supposed to do academically and then we make sure that the finances support that plan.

Cardinal Nation: How will the budget cuts affect the district as a whole and the high school individually? 

Bill Wade: The cuts right now that we propose are really from a capital improvement standpoint so they’ll have no direct impact on the instructional experience of the students. 

Cardinal Nation: And then what transparency measures are being taken to earn such a good rating for the audit? 

Bill Wade: We just make sure that we follow the board policies that we have put in place, particularly after the recent updates that we had this summer in our policies. Always looking to make sure that we are sharing with our community and our board, monthly all of our expenses, and our checkbook, and making sure that we’re presenting our financial information to our community and following the appropriate laws and policies that we have in place.

Jason Crowe, Principal of Mentor High School

Jason Crowe, Mentor High Principal

Cardinal Nation: How will the expansion of the CCP classes to the Paradigm affect students?

Jason Crowe: I think it’s going to provide students with more opportunities. It’s going to be more flexible on their schedules. We’re actually working on model schedules for students so you can visualize what your possible schedule might be where you can take our regular elective classes, you can take AP classes, you can take CTE classes, you can take CCP, and you’re not limited by a location. So I think it’s just going to provide more opportunities for students.

Cardinal Nation: How will the new Career Academy classes affect students

Jason Crowe: They’re going to be so much fun. And a lot of our students are taking elective classes right now; these are going to be year long elective classes. So if you have a passion for digital media, now you can take digital media for a full year while earning credentials.  They’re going to tie a passion with the classes in a much more purposeful way. And they’re going to be fun and entertaining. And if you ever wanted to be a pilot before, now you’re going to have your chance to be a drone pilot.

Kevin Malecek, Director of Economic Development and International Trade for Mentor

Kevin Malecek, Economic Director for the City of Mentor

Cardinal Nation: How do you think that the CTE and CCP programs will help our local community, especially the workforce?

Kevin Malecek: I think that any opportunity for high school students to advance their education while they’re still in high school and take classes that can put them in a great position to immediately integrate into the workforce is advantageous because we need people to stay here, we need workers; they’re our biggest issues with economic development in the workforce today. So anything like that that’s going to increase the value of education for them to get them into the workforce sooner and have them be productive members of the workforce is a benefit to the community.

Cardinal Nation: What was your overall reaction to the presentation today? 

Kevin Malecek: Oh, very positive. I think you have a very competent school superintendent, very competent financial officer, and a very dedicated school board. So I think that there’s a lot of great things happening in our schools and it’s an important part from our economic development standpoint to have a very strong school system and track businesses here and retain businesses.

Dr. Joseph Glavan, Director of the Lakeshore Compact

Joe Glavan, CTE Director

Cardinal Nation: Besides the skills taught in CTE that directly transfer to a specific career path, what values and principles do you think are instilled in students that leads to such a high success rate post high school for CTE students?

Dr. Joseph Glavan: Sure, great question. So in terms of the success rate that we’re seeing with our students in career tech programs, it’s really the ability to get that hands -on experience into those career fields. So whether it’s a field that they decide that they love and they want to continue exploring, or something that maybe they’re not as interested in and they want to pivot to something else, either way that’s fantastic. What it’s doing is that students that are getting the exposure of career tech are getting a better jump of the ability to guide their next steps after graduation. That’s why we’re seeing such a high percentage because those students have an idea of whether they want to be enrolled [in college], enlisted in the military, or whether they want to go into the workforce. So by being able to help them decide that in high school, it’s getting them that early start.

Cardinal Nation: What is one accomplishment with the CTE program that you’re especially proud of this past year?

Dr. Joseph Glavan: I think our biggest accomplishment that we’re most excited about is, again, that 98.3% of our students [are] either enrolled, enlisted, or employed. I mean, ultimately, that’s our goal. Our goal is not to tie into a specific career or a job, but it’s more so helping the students [and] providing information to them so they can make an improved decision with their families.

View Mentor Schools’ Annual Quality Report here.

View Mentor Schools’ Fiscal Year 2023 Report here.

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