The three finalists for Hilliard City Schools superintendent met with several members of the community Feb. 24 during a three-hour forum at Hilliard Memorial Middle School.
Final interviews for the three candidates were scheduled Feb. 26, after which board members will make a selection and begin the process of negotiating a contract.
Board members are expected to formally name the new superintendent at their March 11 meeting, but board President Andy Teater said the new superintendent should be named once a contact is inked -- likely to occur several days in advance
Two of the three finalists to succeed the retiring Dale McVey are current Hilliard administrators: Steven Estepp, executive director of K-12 curriculum and instruction; and David Stewart, principal of Bradley High School.
The third is John Marschhausen, superintendent of Loveland City Schools near Cincinnati.
At the Feb. 24 forum, each candidate provided an opening statement and then was asked a series of 15 identical questions. Candidates were not present to hear each others' answers.
Bill Reimer, Hilliard's representative to the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, served as moderator for the event. The organization facilitated the district's search, collecting 22 applications and recruiting two additional candidates, including Marschhausen.
Estepp was first up.
When asked to declare his three top priorities if named superintendent, Estepp replied he was "greatly concerned about mandates" districts in Ohio are receiving from the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio General Assembly.
To this end, Estepp said, Hilliard must "invent our own future instead of having our future invented for us."
Further, Estepp said, he would ensure that students continue to be college- or career-ready upon graduation and strive to close achievement gaps.
When asked to name what career achievements best qualify him to be superintendent, Estepp said his job as executive director of K-12 curriculum provides him the opportunity to visit all the district's buildings and fosters a "deep understanding of how all the parts and pieces of the system work together to give us the achievement we have today."
Stewart was next.
Stewart cited maintaining the district's high quality and building "leadership capacity" in the district as his top goals if named superintendent.
When asked what experiences best qualify him for superintendent, Stewart recounted his experience as Bradley's first principal and his role in opening the district's third high school.
"I don't think there is anything else as unique as opening a school. ... It's something, professionally, I'll never forget," said Stewart, describing the excitement of helping choose a mascot and team colors and the challenge of working with student and parents.
The opportunity to serve on the committee that established the district's 2020 plan also was a career highlight, Stewart said.
"I'm 100 percent invested in Hilliard City Schools and what we are doing," Stewart said. "I have a vision of where we are today and where we can be (tomorrow), and I am excited to have that opportunity."
Marschhausen spoke last.
When asked about his top priorities if named superintendent, Marschhausen said, because he would be new, he first would assess the district.
"But from everything I've read or heard, Hilliard is ahead of the curve," he said.
Marschhausen said working with the Ohio General Assembly concerning mandates also would be a paramount responsibility.
But, he said, "providing (alternative) solutions rather than complaining" is the best way to address policy not considered beneficial to public schools.
Marschhausen spoke about the need to constantly market a district by explaining how a district has been fiscally responsible, acknowledging the sacrifice of taxpayers and not demonstrating the rewards of their sacrifice.