Ed Theroux brings a Hands-on, Community Start to His First Months as Superintendent

Oxford, OH — Dr. Ed Theroux, Talawanda’s new superintendent, likes pancakes more than waffles. His favorite color is blue. And he has big ideas for Talawanda.

In the short months he has been superintendent, he has already interacted with students, staff, and the community of Talawanda, from meeting Dr. Amanda Weatherwax’s Journalism class at the high school to processing community FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to being a part of the Student Advisory and the Superintendent Advisory Committee at the High School. As Theroux said, “I am amazed about the dedication, the commitment, by not only the staff and the students in the community — but towards the education.”

When Dr. Theroux took over as superintendent, his first big challenge was one the Talawanda community has been arguing over for many years — the Talawanda mascot.  It was brought up again at the start of Theroux’s term, and action was taken. A Branding Committee was appointed to research on and then vote on the issue of the ‘Braves’ mascot for the High School. On Nov. 19, the Branding Committee presented their reports, and the Board of Education voted to get rid of the old ‘Braves’ mascot, replacing it with the ‘Talawanda Brave.’ In this process, Theroux faced many community issues — when asked if community members call him directly on the phone, he said, “I got a couple calls of people yelling about the branding and a couple thanking me.”

Over the course of the mascot debate he has gotten to know the community in other ways as well. One of these was sorting through thousands of documents in a FOIA request — a request that opens documents to the public. Theroux said, “So we’ve had five requests so far for public records….So the first one was only about 300 pages. Because it was a really–oh, that’s nothing–because it was a really narrow focus. They just wanted certain information on the branding committee like the agenda minutes and stuff like that. However, this last one I did was much larger. It was over 1,500 documents that I gave, but it was over 10,000 documents that we had to read through to pull stuff out of.” These requests included emails (including those of students and staff) and text messages. Theroux, along with two other Talawanda employees, went through all 10,000 documents, finding the information that fit the request and blacking out any sensitive information such as students’ names or social security numbers. “It was a lot of late night and weekends trying to get through all of those… and we have one that just came in earlier this week it was probably Monday or Tuesday so I have another one to do.” However, he is understanding about the late nights — and the anger he might face of the school board’s decision. “I think that’s what people were trying to do — make sure it was a fair process,” he said of the FOIA requests.  

This is not the only way Theroux is putting his all into the Talawanda community. In fact, he not only works late nights, but he also works early mornings for Talawanda in order to determine whether or not to declare a two-hour weather delay or a snow day. “I get up 3 o’clock in the morning…  we [Mr.Theroux, Mr.Hubbard, the Director of Facilities, and Mr. Sokal, the Director of Transportation] get up and we traipse the routes, and we see how the routes are going or not going — we drive into the schools because also the routes could be fine, but maybe the schools aren’t, for instance the parking lot.” Now this isn’t everyday — but any day where the weather might allude to a snow day or a two-hour delay, they are up and at it. He is one of the decision makers when it come to weather delays and cancellations, which as he says, is not an easy job.

“I have text group features for all the superintendents around here… because no one wants to be the first one.” But it can also be bad for technical reasons. “This last one on Tuesday [Nov. 27] no one predicted that one, and the roads were good but it bothered me that the roads and sidewalks were icy.  Had I known we probably would have done a two hour delay.” And lastly, any decision he makes can face community backlash. When asked if people actually called him about snow days, he laughed and said, “about many things.”

None of the challenges he has faced have discouraged him from big plans for Talawanda future. In fact, he has another hands-on project in the works.

“Every year we have kids who can’t get the vaccinations for various reasons and we are excluding kids not because of personal or religious reasons but because they can’t afford it or whatever it is. They are now going to be able to do it. So we have a partnership down with Primary Health Solutions which is going to happen.” The partnership will provide for kids to get vaccinations, and help when kids get sick beyond what school nurses can handle. Primary Health Solutions would also do mental health screenings, and write referrals to help children get care. Theroux said, “It has been a focus since I’ve been here. So we will get it up and running hopefully soon.”

Any student would be able to apply, including those over 18 who are still students at the High School. This will hopefully help with both mental and physical illness in all of our schools. “A person gets sick and sicker and you go to the ER and…we are coming up with a packet that will give permission.  The other thing that Primary Health Solutions will do is send information over to your doctor. One of the things is we have students with mental health, behavioral issues, and some of them have to take medications for it. If you don’t have private insurance… they often will only allow you to purchase 30 days of medicine.  We know families that that struggle… so this is something that I’m hoping will help us as well, because now, when we send them up to the Primary Health Solutions, even though you’re working with the different doctor over here, we can give those prescriptions calling into Walgreen’s or wherever it is and have those continuous medications going and still not take your doctor out of the equation.”

Theroux, in the few short months he has worked for Talawanda, has worked with the community for new change. It doesn’t look like he plans to stop.

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Dr. Theroux speaks to student-reporters at Talawanda High School on Nov. 30, 2018