Ohio's best superintendent
With more than 600 school superintendents in Ohio, being selected as the best in the state is an outstanding accomplishment. Westlake's Dr. Daniel Keenan Jr. was named Ohio's 2014 Superintendent of the Year by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and honored during a BASA luncheon in Columbus last December.
The community of Westlake celebrated his achievement with a ceremony held in the rotunda of Westlake High School on Jan. 13 in which family, staff and students presented congratulatory messages of thanks to the school system's leader. The evening featured accolades from students, teachers, principals and board of election members, as well as the honoree’s father, Dr. Daniel Keenan Sr., a retired superintendent of Steubenville’s schools.
Ann Beyer, Westlake PTA Council president, kicked off the evening's tribute to Dr. Keenan by referencing the school system's mission that "students come first, the dignity and worth of each individual is to be respected and that learning is a lifelong process."
She complimented Dr. Keenan on exemplifying these ideals. "Dan is truly mission-centered and this drives his every decision and action to improve the teaching and learning environment of our children. His leadership is evident in the successful students, supportive parents, excellent teachers, administrators and support staff that are the Westlake schools. Dan, you inspire us to be our best."
Dr. Keenan comes from a long line of educators, making one think that education is in the DNA of the Keenan family. Besides his superintendent father, Dan's mother spent 35 years as a university professor, and his brother, Charlie, who was also in attendance, is a superintendent in Maple Heights.
Addressing the crowd, Dan's father stated, “I'm particularly proud that my sons became educators, they're the third generation of educators in my family. … My father taught me that education makes other professions possible, and all of you sitting out there can probably point to a teacher, and educator or administrator that helped you to get to where you are today."
The senior Keenan described three traits that he believes Dan possesses that enables him to be an effective educator and superintendent.
“He's a selfless leader. Anybody that knows Dan [knows] that he's humble. Any award that he's ever received, whether it be in academics or athletics, he always moves it back to the people that he’s working with and makes them part of the reason he received an award." Referring to his son's high school days, he recalled Dan was a state wrestling champion, maintained a 3.9 GPA, was an all-state linebacker and also a team captain.
"He has outstanding communication skills. … He has what I call empathic listening skills. … He always puts you first. … He’ll query you for your position and respect your position even though it may be the antithesis of what he believes."
The third trait that Dr. Keenan Sr. identified was: "He's very inclusive in what he does. He tries to involve everybody, he respects everyone. … He makes the point you’re doing worthwhile work and he locks in the mission that has been developed in an inclusive way in the community."
Cathy Axcell, former chairperson of the Westlake Schools levy committee, lauded Dr. Keenan for his vision for the schools.
"Dan, you understand that your greatest responsibility is to create and sustain a high performing culture within our schools. Your staff knows it, your students know it and the community knows it. You have established and driven a culture where focus on the mission of educating for excellence is paramount, district goals are challenging, accountability is clear for all staff and students and you make a point of connecting with everyone to help them understand how important their contribution to this organization is. … You are an engaged, visible, driven, humble and accessible leader, laser-focused on the mission of our Westlake City Schools. We are so very fortunate to have you at the helm.”