The Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge local school districts underwent a lot of changes in 2013, beginning with new superintendents.

The Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge local school districts underwent a lot of changes in 2013, beginning with new superintendents.

Northridge welcomed Chris Briggs as its top leader Jan. 14. He has more than 22 years of experience in education. He served as regional executive director for Columbus City Schools since the start of the 2011-12 school year. He previously served as principal of New Albany Intermediate School for eight years and was principal at Hamilton Township High School prior to that.

George Tombaugh, assistant superintendent with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, had served as the district's interim superintendent since September 2012, when John Shepard resigned.

At Johnstown-Monroe, Damien Bawn issued a letter of resignation to school board president Roger Montgomery on Jan. 21. Bawn, who had served as J-M superintendent since 2007, retired Feb. 28.

The board hired Tom Slater as interim superintendent in February. He had retired from North Fork Local Schools superintendent. Slater worked as superintendent until November, when he stepped down to focus on this health. He had emergency surgery in early September for a blood clot on his brain.

The board then hired Victor Cardenzana, a retired school superintendent from Wellington Exempted Village Schools in Lorain County, as interim superintendent Nov. 18. In a bizarre move, however, the board fired him Nov. 26.

Board president Amy Ramey said information was uncovered after Cardenzana was hired, giving four board members great pause for concern.

Nelson McCray, superintendent of the Licking County Educational Service Center, will serve as acting superintendent until a new superintendent is hired sometime this year.

Districts hire principals, administrative leaders

In addition to changes at the top, both districts also reorganized with new principals and staffers.

Northridge welcomed Jamie Johnson-Greiner as the new Northridge Primary School principal, replacing Chris Blados, who accepted a position at another district. Sherry Birchem also was hired as the new principal at Northridge Middle School, replacing Robin Elliot, who will teach sixth-grade science. District-wide, Northridge also hired Sabrina Valley as director of teaching and learning.

Johnstown said goodbye to principal Kim Jakeway, who retired. Michael Heath, former principal/administrative officer for the Tomorrow Center Community School in Edison, was hired as the new high school principal. Former longtime music director Jeff Rings became the high school's new dean of students. Other changes of former staff included Michael Carter as part-time dean of athletics and Kris Almendinger as director of student services. Baseball coach Tony Cleveland was replaced by Justin Richards.

New state report card shows mixed results

The new letter-grade format for the Ohio Department of Education's report card showed Johnstown-Monroe receiving four A's, four B's and one D. The district also received an A in achievement, meeting all 24 state standards on the 2012-13 report card. It also earned A's in overall value-added, disabled value-added and four-year graduation rates.

The district's low mark, a D, was in annual measurable objectives, a new measurement that replaces adequate yearly progress.

Johnstown-Monroe schools last year were rated Excellent with Distinction, the highest rating awarded to a school district.

Districts won't receive an overall letter grade until 2015.

Northridge Local Schools yielded two A's, three B's, three D's and an F on the new report card. Northridge also scored a B in achievement, meeting 20 of 24 state standards.

The district's F was in disabled value-added.

Northridge schools last year were rated excellent, the second-highest rating below excellent with distinction.

J-M voters renew tax; 2014 bond issue likely

The Johnstown-Monroe school board unanimously approved legislation in September to enter into an active planning process to prepare for a possible conditional approval in 2014 to participate in the Classroom Facilities Assistance Program.

The resolution stated the school board intends to obtain funding by May 2014 and would provide any necessary information to prepare or update enrollment projections.

The district had accepted a funding offer in 2012 but couldn't come up with the local funding. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission had approved Classroom Facilities Assistance Program funding for the construction of new buildings -- one for kindergarten through fifth grade and one for sixth through 12th grade.

Instead of seeking funds for a bond issue for buildings, the board placed an operating levy on the ballot in May, when 65 percent of voters said yes to renew an 8.5-mill property tax for five years. That levy is expected to raise $2.2 million annually, and it's expected to keep the district from deficit spending through 2019.

Big Red Band jams during Browns halftime

Johnstown-Monroe's Big Red Band scored a performance at the Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens football game Nov. 3.

Band director Joe Carver said it was a great honor and privilege because most high school bands aren't given that opportunity.

Carlos Oseguera, Browns director of fan experience and special events, said a lot of NFL teams book top-level bands to perform.

Assistant marching band director Dennis Moore said the 180-plus-member band performed its regular halftime show in Cleveland.

Northridge adds security, suspends activity fees

Northridge hired additional security measures in late October to keep students and staff members safe.

Briggs said a service agreement started with the Licking County Sheriff's Office to patrol inside and outside school campuses during school hours.

He said the goal was for the officers to build relationships with students and staff members, as well as to be a first responder on school campuses.

Briggs said he wanted to improve the safety and security of students and staff members and to establish a collaborative relationship with local law enforcement.

In addition to increased safety, Northridge students and their families were benefiting from the suspension of academic and student activity fees for the 2013-14 school year.

In addition, pay-to-participate fees for interscholastic athletics were reduced to $200 per sport at the high school and $100 per sport at the middle school, with a family cap of $400 year.

Briggs said the purpose of the change was to increase the opportunity for more student involvement and to reduce the burden placed on parents.

To ensure the safety of students, transportation also was restored for extracurricular and athletics events.

Because of staff and faculty reorganizations, transportation savings, retirements and improved financial oversight, Briggs said, the five-year financial forecast significantly improved since June 2011. Consequently, the state removed the district from fiscal caution in June.

He said the earliest the district would place a tax issue on the ballot is May 2014, and that would be for a renewal.