Q&A with Villa Grove's Mary Ann Manos

Q&A with Villa Grove's Mary Ann Manos

Mary Ann Manos just completed a frenzied first year at Villa Grove, where she was both district superintendent and high school principal, charged with making budget cuts and key hires, restructuring the administrative team and developing the curriculum.

With classes having ended Monday and Manos having a chance to breathe, the grandmother of four (No. 5's on the way) sat down with News-Gazette correspondent Amy Rose for a quick-hitting Q&A that touched on some personal and some professional.

Q: You're from Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What was your childhood like?

A: My mother, a widow, raised three children by herself. Two became college professors with terminal degrees. I hold a Ph.D and my younger brother, Bruce, earned an Ed.D (doctorate of education). My older brother is disabled from a tree-climbing fall as a child of 6. He is a resident of Metamora. My younger brother is a professor of the State University of New York at Albany. I am a middle child and the only girl.

Q: How are you adjusting to smalltown life in Camargo?

A: I love smalltown life. I love to wave at people I know as I drive along, and have them wave at me. I love to watch our students when they are with their older brothers and sisters and parents. I attend community events and truly enjoy learning names and meeting people. This is the best of America, and I am thankful to experience it.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first year as superintendent?

A: Doing both positions as principal and superintendent was a tremendous responsibility. I knew it would be a challenge, but only through this path did I get to know parents and kids in a real manner.

Q: Next year, you'll hand off K-12 principal duties to Steve Killion, part of an all-new administrative structure. What are your long-term goals for the district?

A: I have three. Establish strong professional development options for our educators. Continue to offer greater variety in student elective courses through the use of technology. But overarching all — continue fiscally responsible management of our schools to ensure a bright future for many years.

Q: What's the best advice you were ever given?

A: My mother would say, "Half of staying out of trouble is staying out of places where trouble happens." That has served me well — as a child, a teenager, a mom of two girls and a professional educator. My girls can recite it with only a few words of prompting, and I hope they teach that to their children.

Q: Best advice you give others?

A: "It doesn't matter where you start — it matters where you end." I came from a very poor family, occasionally homeless. My mother held education and faith as the two main ingredients in life for success. She was right.

Q: What was your first job?

A: Teaching sixth grade in Massillon, Ohio. I made less than $7,000 for the year. I loved it because I could see cornfields from my classroom window. I grew up in the city, and the smell of ripe corn in the field was like perfume to me.

Q: What's your morning routine?

A: I am up at about 4:30 am. I do aerobic dance or walk my German Shepherd dog, Schatzi, for about an hour. School then takes my attention for the rest of the day and usually into the evening. Weekends are spent at my daughters' homes, chasing grandchildren or taking the kids out.

Q: What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?

A: I would love to have dinner with Condoleezza Rice because I think she is the brightest, most eloquent woman in the world.

I would love to have dinner with Ann Richards, former governor of Texas. Any woman who led a state like Texas and at the same time had her picture taken in white leather leaning against a Harley is OK with me.

Lastly, Olivia de Havilland, former star of the '30s and '40s movies. I would honestly just let her talk. I am an old movie fan and she was a Hollywood leader — acted with all the biggest stars and still maintained a reputation as an educated and moral woman.

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