By Linda Dillman
There is a new administrative team helping to lead Hamilton Local Schools, but the familiar duo has served alongside each other before.
Dr, Josh Conley was recently tapped to move up from the high school principal position to assistant superintendent, working alongside Superintendent Mark Tyler. While this pairing is recent, their association goes back many years.
“During my first year in the district, Josh Conley was a student teacher for Rex Hicks,” said Tyler, who was hired in 2001 as a middle school health and physical education teacher. “Rex and I shared the gym during that time, so Josh and I basically taught our classes together for the majority of my first semester at HLSD. We also coached track together for a few years. Dr. Conley then became the assistant principal at the elementary school and I became the assistant principal at the middle school. In 2011, we were reunited when I became the principal at Hamilton Elementary School. We worked together for a little over four years in that capacity.”
When asked what it was like to get the team back together, Conley said he and Tyler have a relationship where both of them are comfortable being truthful with one another, where there is no filter during their conversations, thus making them efficient in benefiting those they serve.
One of those they served was recent graduate Grace Green who was thankful to have started and ended her education in the same district, beginning with the first day meeting the pair of administrators.
“Not many students get to stay in the same school district their whole life,” wrote Green in a letter to Tyler and Conley regarding graduation. “Little Grace Green who shook your hands as my elementary school principals, she is so proud of the 18-year-old who stands before you now still shaking your hands all these years later. As I walk into high school tomorrow for the last time, I will think about the two of you and how I’ve always bled green and gold; how Mr. Tyler would say ‘be good, try hard, and have fun.’ Dr. Conley, I’m beyond thrilled to have started out at Hamilton Township with you as my principal and now finish at Hamilton Township with you as my principal.”
Tyler said Conley’s years in administration give him a clear understanding of how to balance building operations and work in constructive ways to help make district-wide improvements, making him a great fit as assistant superintendent.
“I am very excited to be working side-by-side with Josh again, and I do mean side-by-side when I say that,” said Tyler. “Josh and I have always worked very collaboratively and I believe complement each other very well.”
In looking back over the years and what first attracted them to the school district, Tyler said it happened when he was given the opportunity to become head track coach. He grew up on the Ohio River and was not familiar with the Columbus area.
“I was recruited here to be the head track coach after the previous track coach brought Gavin Atkins down to practice with me at Sheridan High School in Thornville, Ohio, where I was working at the time,” said Tyler. “What has kept me here is simply the people. Having now been here 21 years and consider myself so fortunate to have found a home amongst people who I relate to very well.”
Conley said the location of the district is what first appealed to him since he is from a small town. He appreciated the area’s small-town feeling while also being so close to a big city.
“I loved and still love being able to see the Columbus city skyline from work,” said Conley.
As he became acclimated with the district, Conley said it was the people he started to connect with that kept and continue to keep him here, along with the invaluable trust that builds with people over time.
“While it’s always great to be able to agree on things, the reality is that sometimes that’s not always going to be the case,” said Conley, who replaced Mike Meade who retired at the end of the 2021-22 school year. “The beauty of working here, especially for such a long time, is that the people here trust me and I trust them as well. Whether we happen to have a professional or personal disagreement on something, it’s refreshing to work in a place where you can disagree without any sort of long-term animosity. This is what keeps me here and keeps our community moving forward.”
In looking to the future, Tyler felt Hamilton Local’s greatest challenge is simply to grow and evolve in an ever-changing world. He said the district invested heavily in the concept of the three “E’s – Enlist, Enroll, Employ” and is asking students to identify which path they are interested in following.
“Then we make every effort to help them take tangible steps along that path while they are in our programs,” said Tyler. “I want to see us continue to improve upon this vitally important mission and give our students every advantage to hit the ground running in their chosen field.”
Conley added that meeting the needs of individuals or groups passionate about specific issues is a challenge that the district—like many others—must face. He also felt the district’s greatest assets are its people, whether they are teachers, students, staff, residents with or without students, and others.
“The people of this community are what make it,” said Conley, who thanked the Hamilton Local community for their continued trust and support.