No one expected that a back-woods, rural school district in Northeastern Ohio's Appalachia region would achieve the academic success that it has. After all, these are the "922ers," the kids from Claymont. Many people call it "Dirtmont," or "Scaggville."

"Dial 911 if you're in trouble. Dial 922 if you're looking for trouble."

The stigma continues, even now.

Of the student population, 60% of the children come from single-parent homes, 63% receive free and reduced meals, and the Special Needs population of the District exceeds 30%. High School Principal Rob Clarke says of his kids, "For a lot of our kids, this is the cleanest place they'll be, the warmest place they'll be, the only place where sometimes they'll have something to eat and their only contact with friendly people. In some cases, it's a miracle that they get out of bed each day to come here."

Richard Page, principal at Park Elementary, echoes,

"And if that kid needs a hug, he's going to get a hug."

Five years ago inspiration arrived, new Superintendent, Ryan Delaney. He replaced 27% of the staff in the District. The first statement he makes to a prospective new teacher applicant is,

"Tell me a joke."

He says if the applicant can't tell him a joke, then they won't relate to kids. He politely ends the interview in 90 seconds and says,


Ryan Delaney helped to alter old and tired beliefs, practices that no longer worked, patterns of teaching that were outdated, and helped to create a new culture in the Claymont City School District. Delaney spends two hours in his office daily. The remainder of his time is spent visiting the classrooms, talking with the kids and doing magic tricks, for which he is famous. "I am high energy, he says. And I am not for everyone. But I knew I could make a difference for kids."

The teachers in his district describe him as passionate, energetic, intelligent, accessible, playful, caring, positive, and one who does what's good for the kids.

What's good for the kids is a mantra of sorts. Clarke says, "Mr. Delaney sold us on the importance of relationships and it's made all the difference."

Many changes were made at Claymont as a result of low scores and the Academic Watch designation that continued for many years in this district.

"Nobody likes change, but in education, you have to be willing to come out of that box and say, let's do what we have to do to make it better."
says Scot Golec, Vice Principal of Claymont High School.

Delaney has made the difference at Claymont. His uncommon leadership inspires his Principals to be uncommon leaders and the Principals inspire their teachers and staff to be uncommon leaders. His methods have snowballed and the snowball now includes the community.

Despite the low socio-economic demographics for the area, Delaney is a "no excuses" kind of guy. He finds alternative ways to work within the system. He achieves this with a boyish grin on his face and moves beyond all that is negative in the world of education.

Delaney very nearly resembles a little boy in a big suit with an infectious positive attitude that is unstoppable.

Delaney leads by example. With the success in his district in a very short period of time, his administrators and teachers came to embrace change. Teachers began seeing that his methods did work, that it takes just as much effort to be positive as to be negative. They bought in. They became vested in their own classroom success and the collective success of the district. Teachers automatically explore ways to teach that are unconventional, finding that the avenues to learning are endless.

With or without State and Federal funding, the 922ers get the job done.

Teaching in out-of-the-box ways is commonplace at Claymont.

This longtime 'Academic Watch District' now excels with a Performance Index Score of 98.

"There's a new culture here,"
says Principal Rob Clarke.