The faces at the Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District are changing – from principals and administrators to the communications manager.
The school board on April 10 approved the resignations of Middle School South principal Kristen Groves, Middle School West principal Brett Harmon and West assistant principal Sherri Zynda; Scott Schmidt, executive director of business and school improvement; and communication specialist Michael Straughter. All of the resignations are effective July 31.
Most of those employees have been rehired in different positions, excluding Harmon and Straughter. Harmon has accepted an administrative position within the South-Western City Schools. Straughter said he has an opportunity to work outside the traditional K-12 environment. The board accepted the retirement resignation of Blacklick Elementary School principal Robin Schmidt last month.
Last week, the board approved a three-year contract with Groves as Blacklick principal. She will be paid an annual salary of $116,323. A three-year contract also has been approved for Scott Schmidt as executive director of elementary education. He will be paid an annual salary of $126,281. A two-year contract has been approved for Zynda as coordinator of special programming. She will receive a salary of $102,510.
All three will receive a benefits package worth $14,266 a year, according to Straughter.
Superintendent Francis Scruci said Groves has been successful at any level she has worked in the district.
“I asked her if she’d be interested in Blacklick,” he said. “The way I look at it, it’s an opportunity to strengthen our district from top to bottom. What I find really exciting is that Kristen can now go back to the elementary level with a middle school experience. It helps with the educational philosophy of the district.
“If you don’t equip kids at the elementary level, you won’t be successful throughout,” Scruci said. “You have to have a strong foundation. It made sense to us to have a proven commodity for her to move into that principalship."
Scruci said Scott Schmidt would focus on K-5 curriculum, and Beth Spieth, director of curriculum and instruction, would handle 6-12.
“Having elementary curriculum K-5 will allow us to have people focus on specific levels,” Scruci said. “Scott was successful at Chapelfield (Elementary School). He has a great understanding of elementary education. Beth Spieth will assume the 6-12 curriculum responsibilities. One of the keys I want moving forward is the curriculum people working with instructional coaches.”
He said the directors would examine data and work in the classrooms. Such a practice is nearly impossible, he said, when a district has one K-12 curriculum director.
“This will allow us to strengthen what we’re doing and give added support at the building level,” Scruci said. “It will help us analyze data to drive instruction.”
Changes with Middle School West and Middle School South principals provide opportunities for fresh ideas and leaders, according to Scruci. He’s involving the staff at each middle school throughout the selection process for the new principals.
Scruci said more than 80 applicants already had applied for each middle school position as of April 15.
“Moving forward we feel we will narrow candidates down, based on what both the buildings are looking for,” he said. “We’ll find candidates who best fit the buildings. Starting Monday and Tuesday next week, I’ll have a panel of teachers, parents and middle school principals interview the first round of candidates.”
Subsequent interviews will include Scruci, Spieth and human-resources director Matt Cygnor. After choices are narrowed to three candidates, an open forum will be held April 29, when the entire staff at West will be able to ask questions of the finalists.
“Teachers will come with any questions,” Scruci said. “They have to ask the question of all three candidates. They will give feedback about each candidate.”
On Tuesday, April 30, the same open forum will be held for Middle School South for three finalists.
Scruci said he hopes to announce the new principals during the May 9 board meeting.