Fellow of Distinction Award

       The Fellow of Distinction Award Program was established by the Clark County ESC Board of Education on May 14th of 2019. 

A Fellow of Distinction is conferred by the Board of Education upon an individual who has made a lasting, significant contribution to the Clark County Educational Service Center's mission, vision, and values; who has made a positive impact while championing students, staff or the wider public; and who has excelled in a career of exceptional circumstances while displaying high professional and ethical standards.

2023 Award Recipients

Melvin Farrell - 2023 Recipient

Melvin Farrell

Mr. Farrell was born and grew up in the small village of Pitchin in Green Township. He attended Southeastern High School in South Charleston and graduated in 1954. Like many other young men, he enlisted in the military and upon graduation served for 4 years in the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Electrician, 2nd Class. 

Mr. Farrell had a 40 year career with in the loan and financing industry, starting with  Beneficial Finance Corporation in Springfield, Ohio in the early 1960s. He worked his way through the ranks during the next 16 years and became a Senior Manager for this national company. 

In 1972 Mr. Farrell accepted an appointment to the Southeastern Local Schools Board of Education. He served on the board for 17 years, including as Vice-President for 6 years and President for 4 years. In addition he served on the Ohio School Boards Association for more than 15 years. Most recently, Mr. Farrell has served on the Clark County ESC board for 2 terms and retired from the board in 2012.

In addition to his service on local, county, and state school boards, Mr. Farrell and his wife of 61 years, Marilyn, were very involved in 4-H. 

Marcia Nichols - 2023 Recipient 

Marcia Nichols

Marcia began working at the Clark County Educational Service Center in 2004. Throughout her years at the CCESC, she has been involved with many of the CCESC’s special projects and initiatives including the All County Boards’ Dinner, Strengthening Families, Excellence In Education, Young Authors’, Franklin B. Walter All Scholastic Award, Mervin Britton Scholarship.

As a lifelong member of the Clark County Community, and a graduate of Southeastern High School, Marcia strongly believes in the mission of the CCESC and works hard to make sure we provide the best for the students and educators here. 

As the Director of Operations, Marcia was tasked with assisting all districts in Clark County obtain the PPE needed during COVID along with helping to schedule vaccination clinics for all Clark County educators.

Dale Steinlage - 2023 Recipient

Dale Steinlage

He began his career with a bank in Mercer County, but after several years moved to New Carlisle, Ohio. There he became President of New Carlisle Federal Savings Bank in 1982 at the age of 30. He retired from the same bank in 2016.

In 2004, Mr. Steinlage was asked to fill an open position on the Clark County Educational Service Center’s Board of Trustees. With several re-elections he remained on this board for nearly 18 years, retiring from it in 2021. During his time there, the ESC grew to serve the ever expanding needs of the Clark County school districts. Demand for ESC services grew and with it the number of staff needed grew as well. Also, the Board’s office was relocated twice as opportunity offered and as additional space was needed.

Mr. Steinlage was widowed in 2016, but with his wife Joan, they raised three daughters, each now successful in their own fields, one an educator. He is also a very proud grandparent of eight grandchildren.

2021 Award Recipients

Charles Patterson - 2021 Recipient

Amy Backus - 2021 Recipient 

Charlie is a nearly lifelong resident of Clark County and is in his 32nd year of public health. He has 22 years with local health districts and ten years with Ohio Department of Health. He has an undergraduate degree in Biology and Master's of Business Administration. His twenty-one years as a health commissioner in Clark County have broadened his experience in many avenues of Public Health. He is a past president of Ohio Environmental Health Association and is past treasurer of the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners. He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Springfield, the United Way Board of Trustees, and McKinley Hall and was previously appointed to the Ohio Sewage Technical Advisory Committee appointed by the Ohio Senate and to the Sanitarian Registration Board by the Governor. He is married to his wife of 32 years and has three lovely daughters. He was honored to testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 on behalf of Clark County. He believes relationships are the key to moving an organization forward. 

Amy Backus has worked for the Clark County ESC since 2013 as a Preschool Intervention Specialist. She shows a passion for her students and making sure they are cared for when they are in her classroom. All students' needs are met in her classroom whether it's some extra love, hair done for the day, or they feel safe in her classroom. She always has a positive attitude and smile on her face. 

2020 Award Recipients

Larry K. Zerkle  - 2020 Recipient 

Kristi Knight-Craddock- 2020 Recipient 

Larry Zerkle devoted 44 years of his professional life to the field of education. Mr. Zerkle graduated from Wilmington College in 1961 and immediately began his teaching career at Northridge School. However, longevity is not the only reason Mr. Zerkle is receiving this award. His passion for education not only impacted the Clark County ESC and the school districts within the county boundaries, but at the regional and state level as well.

Teachers who had the privilege to work with Mr. Zerkle shared that he was clear about his expectations and provided the necessary support to enable each teacher and child to succeed.

Even as a superintendent, he was always willing to lend a helping hand whenever it was needed.   Most importantly, he consistently made decisions based upon the answer to just one question,….   “Is it good for boys and girls?”

Realizing the importance to recognize outstanding contributions in education, Mr. Zerkle founded the ESC's Excellence in Education Awards Program in 1994. This program recognizes outstanding educators and allows students to express their appreciation for their honored educators.

Kristi Knight-Craddock has worked at the Clark County ESC for 13 years and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) for 26 years.  She has also served as a mentor for SLP's in their Fellowship year for over 23 clinicians.  Her areas of special interest include early speech and language development, communication issues for students with Autism,  and children with emotional challenges.  Kristi has been recognized by the American Speech and Language Association for achievement in continuing education.

 Mrs. Knight-Craddock is passionate about serving students with communication disorders in our community. A child’s success in school is strongly linked to their speech and language skills.

Providing excellent services and support in the field of SLP helps students access their education to their full potential and develop functional communication for everyday life. Without these skills, students are at higher risk for dropping out, lack of independence and employability, and even incarceration. 

Over the past decade, Kristi has worked with the ESC to grow a solid program providing services to all of the districts in Clark County.  She feels that working in a larger team allows therapists opportunities to collaborate, share their specialized skill sets, and provide support for one another.

Kristi was born and raised in Springfield and graduated from Springfield North High School.  She received her Bachelors degree from The Ohio State University and Masters in Speech-Language Pathology from Appalachian State University.  She returned to Springfield in 1995 to start an in-house Speech Pathology program at Community Hospital.  Kristi has supported her community by serving three terms on the Springfield Symphony Board.  She also served as President of the Early Childhood Collaborative and Child and Family Collaborative which are now part of the Family First Council. 

2019 Award Recipients

Dr. John Louis (Doc) Agle   - 2019 Recipient 


During his many years of serving first on the Clark County Board of Education (later called the Clark County Education Service Center), Dr. Agle worked with six superintendents and varied board members. He feels Clark County has been blessed by the quality of these leaders and the staff who supported them.

Dr. Agle always promoted the concept of local control for boards  of education. He feels the needs of students, staff and the public are best served by a board who knows the county's needs well. He feels the Clark County boards of education have fulfilled this mission.

Dr. Agle is proud to be a member of a family who has served on school boards for generations. His Grandfather and  Father were members of Harmony Township School Boards. Dr. Agle also championed the CTC and served on it’s board for several terms. Dr. Agle served for 35 years on the Clark County boards of education.

Mrs. Sarah Wiegel - 2019 Recipient 

Sarah comes from a family of educators. Her father, mother, husband, son, daughter, sister, aunts,   uncles, cousins, and daughter-in-law have all been in the teaching field. Currently her oldest granddaughter wants to continue the trend.  It was only natural to teach and become involved with young people – a friend called it a family curse.  

Sarah taught for several years before she chose to be a full-time mom. She served as a 4-H advisor,    committee member, and committee chairman.  

Sarah served on the Southeastern Local School Board for 4 years and was a member of the Clark County ESC Board for 16 years, serving terms as vice President and President.  During this time the board has grown and expanded services, thanks to the wonderful staff employed.  She enjoyed her time working with staff and being a part of enhancing opportunities for all students in Clark County.



The award is conferred without regard to race, religion, philosophy, ethnic origin, citizenship, language, gender, or sexual orientation.