HOUSTON — Hardin-Houston Local School District Superintendent Larry Claypool is bidding farewell as he retires from his position after eight years.
Claypool’s last official day as superintendent will be July 31, 2019.
Born and raised in Van Wert, Claypool graduated from Van Wert High School in 1971. Though he has relished his time in the world of education, he initially worked within several other career fields before realizing his dream of becoming an educator.
“At one point, I thought I may have a music career,” Claypool said.
From a young age, he was very interested in singing and performing.
“I sang for my first wedding when I was 4 years old, and it was such a natural thing — you know, some people have blue eyes, some people have perfect pitch, some people have a certain knack; as a baby, I just sang,” he said. “My mom told me that when I was little, I would sit on the floor before I could walk, and I would sing Pat Boone songs from the radio.”
After graduating from high school, Claypool began working as a disc jockey at the WERT radio station in Van Wert before finding work elsewhere.
“Over the decade of the ’70s, I worked in a factory, and I also went to Haiti when I was about 22 or 23 to do missionary work,” Claypool said. “I even did some singing while I was there, with the Haiti Philharmonic Orchestra. They were looking for a tenor to sing in a Schubert quartet with a symphony, and the director there heard me singing. He said, “Could you learn this in German?’
“So I did a crash course and I still, at my age, remember some of the words.”
Claypool also spent time in New York City during the 1970s, studying music with a private voice instructor. At the end of the decade, he moved to Dallas where his work took a turn toward business. Claypool began working for a business forums company in the city, eventually becoming president of the company.
Though Claypool’s primary career focus was within the business realm, he still remained dedicated to singing. While in Dallas, he was given the opportunity to perform for President Ronald Reagan at the 84th Republican National Convention in August 1984.
Claypool also attended the University of Texas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. In 1996, he went on a solo singing tour in Denmark.
“A friend of mine who ran a Danish furniture company needed an American voice to do the company’s TV and radio commercials across the country, as they wanted someone with a midwest accent. (My friend) asked, ‘Do you want to come to Denmark and do some voice over commercials for us?’”
While in Denmark completing the voice over work, Claypool was also able to give several live singing performances.
Soon after this trip, Claypool returned home to Van Wert, in 1997, to help take care of his ailing father.
It was during this time that he first entered into education professionally, as he began teaching special education in Van Wert.
“I loved it,” he said. “I just enjoyed the kids and I really began to feel like that was my calling; that music was a hobby, and I just sort of felt a calling to do something more than just make money — I wanted to give something back.”
Soon after beginning his work in education, Claypool began to lose the talent he had held so dearly for so long.
“I lost my voice sometime around 2000,” he said. “Acid reflux took my singing ability away, but I was thankful I could still talk. I recorded a solo tenor CD in 1997; I could tell I was beginning to lose it, so I’m thankful that I have that as a memory of what it was like.”
Claypool continued to work in special education for three years before becoming the director of student services for Van Wert County, after which he became the principal of Continental High School in Putnam County. His first role as superintendent was for Hardin Northern Local School District in Hardin County.
In 2002, Claypool married his wife, Christina Ryan Claypool. The two met in Lima, during a function at which Christina was a speaker.
“It was love at first sight for me,” Claypool said. “We had our first date about 6 months after that and then we got married, to the day, a year after that on June 8. I married her when I was 49 and she was 48.
“Christina has been an outstanding supporter to my career,” he continued. “School administrators spend all their time at school and school functions, so she spent a lot of evenings by herself and a lot of time writing at home.”
In 2011, Claypool began his tenure as superintendent of Hardin-Houston Local School District.
“I helped move into the school’s new building and establish the district a little bit with some business-type principles that I brought with me from being a business man in Dallas.”
Claypool said while he had enjoyed his time in the business sector in Texas, he had been seeking something more in terms of his life’s ambitions.
“I had done very well in business financially, but I knew that making money didn’t satisfy me,” he said. “It’s never been about the money; it’s always been about doing something that could help someone else. That’s one of the reasons I love education.”
Claypool said that while he never became a father himself, the opportunity to interact with students, from preschool to high school, was something that he enjoyed greatly.
“I would go into the classes every first nine weeks and read to the kindergartners, introduce myself, and tell them to say hello whenever they see me in the hallways,” he said. “The kids would come up to me and say, ‘Hi, Mr. Claypool,’ and give me a hug. They enjoyed the chance to form a relationship and to have conversations just as much as I did.”
One of Claypool’s favorite parts about his job as superintendent, he said, was to see the students grow and succeed.
“To see the kids walking in the hallway when they’re in fourth or fifth grade and then to hand them their diploma when they’re 18, getting ready to go out into the world; it makes me feel like I’ve added something and been a contributor to their life,” he said.
During his time as superintendent, Claypool said he took pride in making decisions with the district’s best interest in mind, and that he did so with the help of his faith. It’s this faith that he feels led him to his career in education in the first place.
“As a small boy, my family went to church, and I came to know Jesus as my savior when I was about 18, even though I knew all along that I needed Christ in my life,” he said. “At one point, I was going to be a seminary professor — I went to Dallas Seminary when I lived there, but then the Lord just sort of directed me and said, ‘No, you’re going to be in public education.’
“I’ve tried to have godly principles guide my life and all the decisions I’ve made for the district, especially the really big ones,” he continued. “I’ve always prayed about them to try to make sure it was what God would have me do.”
Claypool said some of his most prominent goals, or aspirations, while working for the district included achieving academic growth, taking care to make sure the district was financially secure — that it didn’t have to go to taxpayers for more money — and being fair in contracts with teachers.
As for what life may entail post-retirement, Claypool is keeping his options open.
“I’m going to rest for a little while,” he said. “Christina and I are going to enjoy some time together; we really haven’t had a vacation in the last seven or eight years, and I want to make sure that I thank her for all the sacrifices she made when I went to all the ball games, and all the track meets, and all the meetings and conferences throughout the years.”
Claypool said he will also take time to revisit his love for music.
“I like to write country music and I’ve got a couple songs in the studio being worked on with a couple of singers,” he said. “A friend of mine has a studio up near Ada, and we have a vocalist, who is a music major in the area, who is singing one of the songs.”
Claypool’s replacement, Ryan Maier, will take over as superintendent beginning Aug. 1. Maier has most recently served as the principal of Hardin-Houston’s junior and senior high school.
“I wish Ryan well,” Claypool said. “He is an outstanding guy and I believe he will do a great job for the district.”
Reach the writer at 937-552-2205.