Overcome with emotion, one could've heard a pin drop as Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Francis Scruci fought back tears to announce he had withdrawn from consideration as a superintendent candidate for Pickerington Local Schools.
Applause erupted from the packed April 10 board meeting, and many rose to their feet following his announcement.
Scruci had been considered one of eight finalists for the Pickerington superintendent job to replace outgoing Superintendent Rob Walker.
"My wife and I moved to this community and made it our home," Scruci said. "A lot of times in leadership, you make decisions that aren't quite popular. It's the nature of this (job). I work hard and try to do the right thing."
He said he was contacted two-and-a-half weeks ago to consider the Pickerington job.
"My heart wasn't there," Scruci said. "The outreach and support from (Gahanna) staff, students and community members means a lot to me. I want to thank you. I hope I'll be here a long time."
Scruci said he withdrew his name from consideration on the evening of April 8.
Scruci said he plans to continue to work hard to make Gahanna a better district.
Prior to his announcement, a community member, athletics director and high school senior shared some of their experiences about Scruci.
Resident Joseph Schneider said he became more involved in the school district three or four years ago. When former Superintendent Mark White announced plans to resign, Schneider said, he was part of a committee to discuss what was expected from a superintendent.
"We discussed openly what we wanted, and I'm happy the person we hired -- Francis Scruci -- met all our expectations," he said. "He's an open person who became my friend."
Schneider said Scruci hosts meetings to answer any questions, and if he doesn't have an immediate answer, he will find one and follow up.
"I opened the paper and found there was a possibility we may lose him," he said. "I don't want that to happen. Let's get behind this man and find out what we need to keep him. He's the epitome of what a superintendent should be."
Athletics director Justin Sanford said events, experiences and people affect lives.
"Francis is one of those people," he said. "In the short 18 months he has been in the district, he impacted my life and countless others'."
Sanford said Scruci has been building relationships within the community.
"We need stability in that position, and we need visibility," he said. "We need your leadership."
Senior Kailyn McComb said she has been a student in the district for 12 years, and she has seen changes in leadership.
"I can't speak for others at the high school, but I speak for (myself)," she said.
McComb said she has felt more support during the past two years than in all of her other years in the district.
"Mr. Scruci (affected) me in a personal way," she said. "I'm a varsity volleyball player. I hoped to continue in college."
An injury dashed her hopes to play after high school, she said.
"Mr Scruci made a point when he saw me in public to ask how therapy was going," McComb said. "It meant so much to me. He makes a point to connect with students in ways that other people don't.
"I'm also in DECA. He not only supports athletes but DECA as well."
McComb said there's a phrase in Gahanna: "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
"I won't be here next year," she said. "If I can't fight for a change, how can I expect anyone else?
"I think Mr. Scruci is one of the best things that has happened. He supports anyone and everyone he comes in contact with."
Scruci became G-J superintendent Aug. 1, 2012, succeeding White, who resigned to pursue other interests.
He previously was superintendent of Wellington Exempted Village Schools in Lorain County.
In other board discussion, Dale McVey, of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, discussed the Ohio Superintendent Evaluation System.
McVey, former Hilliard and Licking Heights superintendent, said the ESC consults with districts to talk about needs and how it could help.
He has been assigned to Gahanna-Jefferson.
McVey said a framework was initiated in 2009 to assess a superintendent's work, and it's currently prevalent in many Ohio districts.
"It creates a common framework to bring people together: What are my priorities as a superintendent or a board?" he said. "You need to make sure you have a specific job description."
Board president Jill Schuler asked what hurdles other districts have experienced.
"With the early findings in pilot districts was the realization that everyone didn't want it," he said.
McVey said a common understanding is needed about responsibilities and leadership.
Schuler said a committee of board members would be established to work with McVey.