Yellow Springs School Board

Superintendent search process moves forward

A significant outreach effort to find outstanding candidates for the position of Yellow Springs school superintendent is currently taking place, according to the leaders of the Yellow Springs school board at the board’s Feb. 11 meeting.

“We’re reaching out and encouraging as many people as possible to come to our district,” Board President Sean Creighton said.

That outreach, which began Jan. 15, includes ads on state and national educator group Web sites, notices in college networks, ads in large urban Ohio newspapers, e-mails to 200 educators around the state and multiple postings on Facebook pages, according to Creighton. The deadline for applications is Feb. 26.

The search for the replacement for former superintendent Norm Glismann was a focus of discussion at the three-hour meeting. Board Vice-President Benji Maruyama presented a timeline for a search process, which included the selection of the new superintendent by the end of April.

While much of the search process mirrors the process used by the district when it hired Glismann three years ago, a significant difference is the increased outreach efforts to find potential candidates. According to Interim Superintendent Tony Armocida, one of the main shortcomings of the Glismann search process was, in the end, having only a small pool of candidates to choose from. In a previous interview, Creighton cited the need for more aggressive outreach in the superintendent search as a reason that he and Maruyama had sought leadership positions at this time.

The expanded outreach process has already attracted several strong candidates for the job, according to Armocida, who encouraged the board to shorten the proposed timeline so that interested candidates don’t go elsewhere before a decision is made.

“I know there are a couple of good candidates out there and I hate to have you lose them,” he said.

Armocida also questioned whether this board will require that candidates must live in Yellow Springs, a criteria that several who sat on the most recent superintendent search committee said contributed to the small final pool of candidates.

“The residency requirement was a major factor. We lost at least two good candidates and that was a real shame,” said District Treasurer Joy Kitzmiller.

However, according to board member Angela Wright, it’s important that the superintendent live in town in order to “go deeply into the community,” and get to know students and teachers. While Armocida said he agreed with Wright that a superintendent living in town is preferable, “I would not make it a deal breaker. I’d consider a waiver if you find the right candidate.”

Board members also considered the need to hire a consulting firm to help bring in more candidates, as suggested by Richard Lapedes. No decision was made, although the board approved $7,500 for hiring such a firm should Maruyama and Creighton, who are overseeing the search process, choose to do so. Armocida questioned whether a search firm is necessary given the already extensive outreach efforts.

The next step in the process is putting together a core committee of teachers, staff, board members and community members to review applicants, according to the plan. About 40 names of potential core committee members have already been suggested, Creighton said. The committee’s work will involve reviewing and interviewing top candidates, checking references and making recommendations to the board.

The mood at the Feb. 11 meeting was significantly different than at the board’s last meeting, when relations between board members were tense. At that meeting, Creighton’s and Maruyama’s bids for leadership positions met with opposition from Lapedes and Merhemic, who later said they believed more seasoned leadership was needed for the board’s current challenges. However, board members were cordial on Feb. 11, and Lapedes apologized for behavior at the previous meeting that he described as having been overly emotional.

In other board business:

• The board unanimously approved the second vote of a resolution that allows the treasurer to put on the May ballot a renewal of the district’s current property tax levy. The five-year levy will raise $1,060,000 yearly, which is about 13 percent of the district budget, according to Armocida, who emphasized that the levy is a renewal of a longstanding current levy that will not raise taxes.

“A lot of districts are looking to raise more money,” by replacing existing levies with larger ones, he said. “This isn’t that.”

• Twenty-three applicants have applied for the position of district treasurer to replace Kitzmiller, who is leaving her job at the end of February after 10 years. According to Creighton, the search committee will conduct interviews on Feb. 17 and will bring to the board two or three finalists when it meets in executive session at a special meeting on Feb. 25.

• The financial situation for the school district appears less dire than it seemed last summer, according to Kitzmiller in her treasurer’s report. While last summer saw a significant drop in income tax revenues, recent indications are that the income tax drop is less than anticipated and that property tax revenues are up, partly due to increased property appraisals. The district is still anticipating the 2010 district budget to include its first deficit spending since the school income tax levy was passed about 10 years ago, she said. The deficit is anticipated to be about $600,000, according to Armocida. However, the school district has a large surplus that allows it to respond to the recession in a thoughtful way, a luxury that most districts don’t have, according to Lapedes, who thanked Armocida for his financially prudent leadership during his 10-year tenure as superintendent.

Lapedes suggested that to address upcoming financial challenges, Creighton and Maruyama identify financial “trip wires” to alert the board when a potential drop in revenues indicates the need for action, including discussions with the teachers’ union regarding revenue declines. He also suggested that the board create a finance committee to be charged with a goal of decreasing district expenditures by 10 percent.

• Initial interviews for the district’s open principal positions will take place soon, according to Armocida. Interviews for the Mills Lawn position to replace Christine Hatton will take place on March 1 and 2, and those for the Yellow Springs High School/McKinney School position to replace John Gudgel will take place March 8 and 9.

• Special education supervisor Terry Graves-Streiter presented 12 action steps that special education teachers are taking to respond to concerns from parents of special ed students. The action steps were sparked by several meetings between parents and school officials in the fall.

• The board approved a performance trip to New York City from March 25–29 by students in the Yellow Springs High School band and orchestra. Along with sightseeing, the students will perform at Lincoln Center.

• The board was introduced to two current exchange students in Yellow Springs High School: Priscilla (Bli) Toto, the first exchange student from Madagascar, and Anna Karling Khan from Sweden.

• The board approved resignations from Mills Lawn teachers Wenni Lee and Julie Underhill, who are both leaving town due to a relocation of their husbands’ work.

• The board approved as substitute teachers, at $80 per day, Kilburn Anton, Drake Bryan, Sharlene Cleveland, Richard Downing, Alban Holyoke and Mitchell Stamm.

• The board approved a grant application to the Yellow Springs Educational Endowment for next year’s school immersion program on body/mind/spirit.

• The board approved a special team-building meeting on Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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