An inside insight with new superintendent Craig Hockenberry 


By: Sofie Myers and George Maillis 

Arguably, the new superintendent has been one of the most popular topics throughout the school year. As many students, teachers, and community members noticed, Mr. Hockenberry was involved with Poland Schools almost immediately. 

Upon the first day of school, students and staff could recall the new superintendent walking around the halls, greeting the returning students from their summer break, and interacting with the school administrators. 

Getting to know the new superintendent has been easier than normal, as he is very prominent in school events. But, many people wanted to dive a little deeper on who Mr. Hockenberry actually is and what some of his goals as the new superintendent are. 

Hockenberry shares his experience about Poland overall. 

He said, “The coolest thing is the uniqueness of Poland; from the history of the Seminary, to how amazing the old facilities are, to the high achieving students. In my career, I have never worked in a school district where the students achieved at such high levels. We’re in the top 20% of all the schools in the entire state of Ohio, so that was very unique and very exciting.”

This is the fourth school district that Hockenberry has worked in. Although he was born and raised in Northeastern Ohio and had grown up in the area, he had been living in Cincinnati for over 30 years.

Coming back to his roots was nothing short of a process, as Hockenberry was selective on which school district he wanted to work in. Thankfully, Poland met his criteria. 

Hockenberry stated, “The opportunity came where I could finally come back to where I’d grown up-in this area- to be a superintendent. But I was very particular about what school district I wanted, and I wanted to work in a very unique, very high achieving, and a very cool place.”

Not only is the new superintendent familiar with the area, his connections are very special as well. Many of the great influences on his life are from Poland. 

“When Poland came open, I had some connections to the area. My high school football coach, my best man at my wedding, and my best friend of all times was born and raised here, so when the opportunity presented itself, I interviewed and was very excited about the opportunity when I got the job,” Hockenberry elaborated.

Although his re-introduction to the area seems to be flawless, just like with any new job there are difficulties to overcome. Some of the problems involved the closing of buildings and the questions going into another school year with the pandemic afoot. 

Hockenberry has handled the situations facing the district very well. He wanted to look at solutions that would ease the situation and bring the community closer together. 

About the challenges early on in the academic year, Hockenberry stated, “We got through it, and things are getting a little better, so let’s cross our fingers and hope that continues.”

One of the most important solutions to unite the community has been the new social media presence from the school district. Many parents, students, and members of the community have been impressed with the updated way to share school information and connect the school district on a higher level. 

Hockenberry has a lot to say about the new social media accounts and online presence of the school district.

Hockenberry said, “One of the things that I’d noticed was that there was a lot of focus on a lot of the bad things that were going on in Poland early, whether it was the way we handled Covid-19, closing buildings, or decisions that were being made throughout the district. When I was looking at the whole big picture and the body of work that we do here, one of the things that was missing was: We have all this to celebrate and how do we get that out there?¨

Hockenberry made it a goal to increase communication as one way to foster a more positive community.

Hockenberry said, “So, having a social media presence allowed us to pump out all the good, so every time somebody was pumping out something bad about something, we had way more good to pump out, so we flooded the market with great stuff.”

Hockeberry emphasized, “And there’s no shortage of great accomplishments that you kids do and the community does and the pride that we have in our school district. The only way to get that out and get it out quickly is through social media.”

In order to keep the social media constantly updated, a Poland Communications Director was hired. 

Hockenberry said, “The board allowed me to hire a communications director, which is Nico. He helps set all of the pages up, and then he and I post together, so when we get great pictures or great opportunities or updates we pump those out. Social media is the way that most of our kids communicate, most of our families communicate, so it’s instantaneously quick and it gets out there and we’re very happy about that. So I was very happy that the board allowed me to invest in a communications person.”

The social media accounts set up by the Board of Education and Mr. Hockenberry have been very helpful, especially for families of students and community members who want to know what is going on inside of the school buildings who want to get involved. 

Whether the Instagram account blasts news about the upcoming basketball games and scores, to the school play times and dates, the new social media presence has made a huge impact on the community and does indeed pump out all of the good things that the schools accomplish.

Another reason why the school has these new social media accounts is because Mr. Hockenberry values involvement in the outside aspect of going to school. Aside from education, he recognizes that extracurricular activities are extremely important aspects of the community. 

“I’ll say this kindly because I know the work that we do in the classroom is very very important, believe me, I do. I remember physics, I remember chemistry, I remember algebra, but I’ll tell you what I remember the most about school is what I learned by playing sports and being involved in extracurricular activities. That’s where I built the friendships that have lasted my entire lifetime, and those are the things that I remember the most,” Hockenberry said.

The new superintendent was in attendance at the recent school play, 67 Cinderellas. He holds the fine arts programs to a high value as well as other extracurricular activities, and even has personal connections with art and theatre. 

Hockenberry said, “The fine arts are extremely important. I raised a remarkable actress. My daughter was not involved in sports at all when she was going to high school, and one day she got on the stage and was in plays, and it’s been her whole life and her whole high school career. And I married an artist, my wife’s an artist. She has an art major from the University of Cincinnati so those have been a big part of my life. Although I’ve been involved in sports, I’ve had this passion and love for the arts as well. I know how much time and energy is put into it. They’ve been practicing 67 Cinderella’s for months, and I know Candy Fonagy, the director of our drama program, puts countless hours in, and we have to always be able to support that as well, and we will continue to do so.”

As the Poland Players start preparing for the Spring musical, many can imagine Mr. Hockenberry’s excitement, and the students are quite impressed with his visibility at so many events almost everyday. 

The multitude of sporting events that were ongoing during the fall was endless. However, many students, on many different teams, events, and days could recall seeing the new superintendent on the sidelines cheering for the Poland athletes. 

“The sports, the overwhelming support of the sports programs at all levels, all sports, has been great. I’m a big sports guy, and I really enjoy watching sports. So being involved in a community that takes a lot of pride was very important,” Hockenberry explained.

The events that Hockenberry attends per week is a very high number, as students can recall seeing him anywhere from a Friday night football game to an early Saturday morning cross country meet. 

Taking pride in the extracurricular activities and many sports that Poland has to offer is one of Hockenberry’s most esteemed values. His visibility at so many events also allows the students, parents, and community to get to know him better. 

On extracurricular activities as a whole, Hockenberry said, “I truly enjoy supporting the student athletes and supporting extracurriculars, supporting the plays and drama. And I love to watch you all perform and I want to celebrate it, and I feel it tells our story. I feel, as a superintendent of a smaller district, I have an opportunity to tell the Poland story, and I can’t tell it if I’m not out there watching people in cross county, watching tennis, watching football. I feel like if I don’t tell the story, then who’s going to tell it? People that are mad at us? People that are disappointed in us? So I feel like going out and supporting and encouraging more people to do so is a win-win, and I get to build relationships with all of you.”

Since Hockenberry’s arrival to Poland, community members have noticed some of the new changes on the school grounds. One big change is the new playground at McKinley Elementary. 

Hockenberry elaborated on the new playground: “Gross motor, exercise, being outside, and having a positive place to play, grow, and develop is so important for young kids, and we really didn’t have an area that was really focused for that. The former superintendent invested in that as part of our ‘Forging the Bulldogs Forward’ future plan, so we were glad that it finally came in and went up, and we hope to add onto that too, and to continue to have places for kids to grow and develop, and obviously, that’s a big part of early childhood and early development, and it gives the community a place to go after school’s over; it’s a playground that we want to share with the whole community, so the development of that was very important.”

The changes happening in the school district are looking to be positive growth factors for the entire community. Hockenberry has no shortage of ideas he wishes to speak about and tell the students of Poland. 

However, he does leave us with a very important reminder. 

Hockenberry reminded students, “The only thing is to make sure we continue to be safe with Covid; we’re coming to the end of it. I’m hoping that we continue to see the positive data; we’re not wearing masks, but we still need to do all the positive things. Try to stay apart when we can, make sure that if we do get sick you stay home, and I think that things are finally going to get back to normal. Your education has been disrupted for a year and a half, and I feel really bad that you guys have lost some of that time- so we need to make it up and have a great time.”