Superintendent David Hornak: 120 days-plus and counting as leader of Holt's schools

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By Courtney Kendler
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

By his own accounts, Holt Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hornak has been in office for just over 120 days. But, does anyone in the district really know him yet?

Behind the thick-rimmed glasses, white button-down shirt and larger-than-life smile, you will see a man, who, in his own words is, “tickled to be here.”

Superintendent Hornak is all smiles as he sits in his office in north campus. Photo by Courtney Kendler

Superintendent David Hornak is all smiles as he sits in his office in north campus. Photo by Courtney Kendler

Sitting down for an interview, Hornak exudes confidence and charisma with every word he says about Holt Public Schools. It takes only a matter of seconds, and a quick glimpse around his office, to see just how passionate he is about his students and his role as superintendent.

Before taking his current position as Holt Public Schools superintendent, Hornak spent 22 years working in the district as both an elementary school teacher and principal. “I feel like I was on a 22-year interview,” he said.

Hornak said his parents, who were both university professors, instilled in him at a young age that he should always try and “do the right thing.”

“That’s what I’ve tried to do over the years,” said Hornak. “With that comes kind of consistent behaviors; helping whenever you can and doing all the good you can do with as little fuss as possible.”

This sentiment stayed with Hornak throughout his many years, and four degrees, at Central Michigan University. He first received his undergraduate degree in child development with a minor in physical education. “I married two things that I really have a passion for; kids and wellness,” he said.

Later, Hornak returned to CMU for his master’s degree in elementary teaching, and in May 2015, received his final degree, a doctorate of education.

When asked why he decided to apply for Holt Public Schools superintendent, Hornak said, “the timing was really perfect because I had just finished my degree and I felt like, what’s the next step? It’s the drive to do all the good you possible can.”

After it was announced that former Holt Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Johnny Scott would retire after the 2014-15 school year, 39 candidates, including Hornak, applied to replace him.

The events that take place in the appointment of a superintendent consist of multiple public forum interviews in front of members of the school board and concerned parents.

“You’re interviewing in front of a school board of seven people, answering their questions, but it’s public,” said Hornak. “I saw a lot of friends, so I felt comfortable. Plus, I prepared an awful lot.”

According to Hornak, “the number one predictor of future performance is past performance…The community knew me, knew of my willingness to do whatever it takes to help everyone and I think that contributed to the fit at the time.”

After narrowing down the candidates over the course of three rounds of interviews, Hornak was selected to be the next superintendent with a final school board vote of 7-0.

The superintendents office is located in the north campus of Holt High School.

The superintendents office is located in the north campus of Holt High School. Photo by Courtney Kendler

School board President Lori Zajac is confident in the board’s decision to hire Hornak.

“Dr. Hornak is phenomenal. Period!” said Zajac. “Recognizing that he is at the very initial stages of his superintendent career, I could not be more pleased or proud of our decision to hire Dr. David Hornak as the superintendent of Holt Public Schools.”

One of the many initiatives Hornak has been most eager to put into action since his hiring is a new comprehensive communications campaign, which makes use of popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, in an effort to communicate more with parents and students.

“This has afforded us the opportunity to share news immediately with our public. It has been extremely well received and has allowed us to build trust with our community,” said Hornak. “I’m also sending 5,000 emails out a week to parents and 722 emails out internally so that the common message gets out every single week.”

“Dr. Hornak has done a great job with increasing communication, which seemed to be lacking under the last superintendent,” said Holt High School alumni and parent Kristin Moore.

Holt Public Schools Executive Director of Curriculum and Staff Development Dr. Ruth Riddle agrees that Hornak’s communication campaign is a positive addition to how the district relays information to parents and students.

“I think it’s a very positive way to increase communication and it keeps up with where we are in the times, in terms of the use of technology,” said Riddle.

Jennifer Bertram, mother of two Holt High School graduates, is also confident that the district will improve under Hornak’s leadership.

“I think that our new superintendent is very committed to addressing the concerns of the community,” said Bertram. “I have met with him recently and do feel like he appreciates the need to address some of our academic issues.”

When he’s not in his office, Hornak can be found at one of the elementary schools, dressing up as Mr. Potato Head for Halloween, catching a Rams football game or chaperoning one of the high school dances. When not tied up at school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids.

“I’m so tickled to be here. I love every minute of my day,” said Hornak. “Even the tough days are amazing and I’m proud to lead this district and the community.”

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