Each year Leadership Worthington recognizes leadership in the Worthington community through the organization’s Leadership for a Lifetime Awards Program. Because the quality of leadership makes a significant difference in every organization, Leadership Worthington feels it is important to recognize outstanding leadership and service in its community and to provide leadership role models for others.
This year one of the recipients of the Leadership for a Lifetime Award is our own (Worthington Schools) Jennifer Wene. In my current role I am blessed to have the opportunity to work closely with Jennifer. She is a professional educator who is passionate about helping all students see success. She has an incredibly high capacity for work, and for her entire career she has harnessed that capacity for work to help Worthington.
Retired Worthington school counselor and community leader Kathy Moore explains Jennifer’s impact best:
“Jennifer Wene is the ultimate leader. Examples of her leadership expertise are almost too numerous to mention. She began to take on leadership responsibilities in the Worthington School District in the 1980’s when she was hired as the Director of Special Education. During her tenure as special ed director, she won the respect and admiration of her colleagues and her constituency. Jennifer, always one to begin with the end in mind, had a clear vision for the special education program in Worthington. Quite simply, she wanted to maximize the potential of Worthington’s special needs students. She hired and supported others who had the same vision, and the Worthington special education team became a force to be reckoned with, a group that was relentless in its quest to meet the special needs of these students.
In the late 80”s, Jennifer became a member of the charter class of Leadership Worthington. Already a visionary leader, Jennifer’s skills were honed even further through the LW program.
Then during the 1990‐91 school year, Jennifer became the principal Slate Hill Elementary, a brand new school in the northeast quadrant of the district. The opening of Slate Hill was an incredible leadership challenge. There was no sense of community there. Some families were even angry that their children had to transfer to this new place. So Jennifer rolled up her sleeves, hired a staff that wanted to join hands with her to create a dream school, and the Slate Hill journey began. It became clear to educators that Jennifer’s expectations would be very high. If you did not want to work hard and work as a team player, then Slate Hill would not be for you. So a special staff came on board, teachers who trusted Jennifer to research best practices in education, teach them to us, and encourage and support us in our journey to create an amazing school. As a result, Slate Hill went from a school riddled with challenges in 1991 to a National Blue Ribbon School Award Winner in 1998. So much of this remarkable Slate Hill story is about Jennifer’s amazing leadership capabilities.
Then in 2003, the Worthington Schools Administrative Team, recognizing Jennifer’s exemplary leadership skills and educational expertise, invited her to join them as part of the Central Office Team. Leaving Slate Hill was one of her life’s great challenges, but she knew that the time had come to serve the district as a whole. After an emotional goodbye assembly, she left the Slate to become Director of Teaching and Learning for the Worthington Schools. Although her Slate Hill staff grieved over her loss for years, we knew that she was a gift to teachers in all buildings in this new position. So, slowly, we made peace with letting her go.
In this new position and others, she’s impacted countless lives through her visionary leadership, strong communication skills, tireless work ethic, educational expertise, and passion for the children and families of the Worthington Schools. She has helped so many discover their potential.”
On Memorial Day you will see Jennifer and other Leadership of a Lifetime Award recipients in the annual Worthington Memorial Day parade. Good seats will go fast. I’ll be putting my chairs in front of Graeter’s. Come join us to cheer Jennifer on!