Clay High School Principal Jim Jurski notes that when schools like Ottawa-Glandorf and Napoleon travel for sports, they bring the entire town with them. In town, businesses paint their windows in school colors.
“Whenever you go to a small school, like Carey or Ottawa-Glandorf, and drive through that town, or I just drove through Woodville the other day, all the local business have ‘Go ‘Cats’ and they’ve got their flags flying out there,” Jurski said.
“One thing that I think is different from us to them is their high school is the focal point and it’s a positive focal point, where ours in the past few years hasn’t been a positive focal point.” Jurski continued.
“That’s what I want to get here — that pride in our high school and the community buying in. I think we’re on the right path here, but if anything, I think we’ve hit rock bottom last year for sure. Now, with the hiring of (Supt.) Lonnie (Rivera), we’re on the way up.”
Jurski admits that in sports, it doesn’t help that Clay now competes in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference — a league where the private schools are closer to the same size, but the public schools are much bigger.
“A big belief is if you have a great fall sports program, it sets the tone for the rest of the year,” Jurski said. “Right now, obviously, we’re struggling a bit.”
Increased support of athletics is one element Jurski would like to see emphasized at Clay, but there are others. That is why when he sends out a weekly newsletter, Eagle Vision, to the staff, and he sends a few brief items that he calls “Tradition-Family-Community.”
His column is not just about sports, however. Most of his items are current, praising students, teachers, the community, and other school organizations for their accomplishments. They are items you don’t see in news print every day.
“Last year, we had our 83rd graduation commencement,” Jurski said. “So every week, what I try do is promote and come up with a new fact about Clay High School whether its sports related, our staff, our faculty, whatever it is. I have some magnificent things I’m trying to promote and we’re distributing those among the community members here. It’s little tidbits here and there.”
One newsletter item — “Our Model UN team is quickly building a reputation as one of the best teams in the area after the impressive display at competition last weekend. The team earned first place and received several compliments on their presentations.”
Jurski says it’s also to build on historical facts for a high school that will be closing in on its 90th year at the end of this decade, and a school district that will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year.
For instance, he wrote about the trophy Whitmer and Clay football teams have played for since 1948 — the Little Brown Jug. He wrote about the history of the Oil Barrel Trophy, played between east side rivals Waite and Clay since 1961.
Another item — “Do you happen to know how our school received its name? Clay High School was named after Jeremiah Clay. Mr. Clay donated the land that was once farm land to the school district to build the first high school. Clay High School was built in 1926 at a cost of $121,000. It had 16 classrooms and a combined auditorium and gymnasium. It housed both elementary and high school students until Clay elementary was built in 1937.
“The first graduating class of 1930 had 21 graduates. In 1954, when the new Clay Senior High School was built, it became Clay Junior High. After Eisenhower Junior High was built the building became part of the high school complex and continued to be used by the high school until the building was demolished in 2008.”
Another historical item —
“Did you know that the Oregon School District has had nine superintendents since its inception in 1914? Furthermore, out of the nine superintendents, Dr. Rivera is the only superintendent that was a Clay graduate. Here are the names of our past superintendents: Josephine Fassett 1914-1954, I. William Miller 1954-1960, Vaugh J. Ullman 1960-1967, Victor Wood 1967-1984, Robert Pfefferle 1984-1999, Alberta Ellis 1999-2002, John Hall 2002-2008, Michael Zalar 2008-2013, and our current superintendent Lonny Rivera.”
Jurski said, “I’m trying to re-instill the pride in Clay High School and what it means to go to Clay High School, and the tradition we have here at Clay. I’m trying to put that out there as much I can. I started with our freshman orientation, what it means to go here and what it means to get a Clay High School diploma and how proud you should be on that Friday (at a sporting event), because things over the past few years haven’t been all positive about Clay High School.”