Licking County News

2012 was 'year of transition' for Southwest Licking

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Southwest Licking school board President Don Huber described 2012 as a "year of transition," as the district welcomed a new superintendent and earned a probable "Excellent with Distinction" rating on the Ohio Department of Education's state report card.

"Growth and change, that's what's going on here," said board Vice President Cindy Zaino.

Zaino said in addition to a new superintendent, the district also welcomed new administrators and principals.

"Change can be very positive," she said. "It's not always fun and you can't make everyone happy, but we've experienced a bit of change this year."

Huber and Zaino agreed the most profound change was the hiring of Robert Jennell as superintendent May 23.

Jennell wassuperintendent of Columbus Grove Local Schools, a small district north of Lima, since 2005.

He replaced Forest Yocum, who retired in July.

Jennell's total compensation, including benefits, is $196,000 per year, including an salary of $130,000, said Treasurer Richard Jones.

Huber said Jennell stood out from other candidates because he was thorough in the way he answered the board's questions and was clearly ambitious about making improvements to the district.

Zaino said the transition has been smooth. She said Jennell has a firm vision for the district's future and the best way to address it.

"I feel confident going forward," she said.

Zaino said discussing Jennell's goals for the future as a board after he was hired was beneficial.

"Mr. Jennell has brought a new era to Southwest Licking," she said.

Zaino said another highlight of 2012 was Southwest Licking's expected rating of "Excellent with Distinction" on the state report card. The official scores are delayed because of the ongoing state investigation into allegations of tampering with student-attendance data against multiple Ohio districts, but Southwest Licking was not one of the districts under investigation.

"I don't know if people understand what kind of honor that is," she said.

The district met 25 of 26 indicators and the state's value-added measure. The district was rated "Excellent" on the previous state report card.

Other changes in 2012 included the purchase of two new modular buildings with a total of four new classrooms for roughly $186,700 to be used at Kirkersville Elementary School while new permanent classrooms are constructed.

Jones said he found that used modulars roughly 15 years old would still cost the district about $115,000, and they were inefficient from an energy standpoint and likely would require upgrades.

He said he expects the district will need to use the modulars for at least five years and perhaps more than 10, and having energy-efficient modulars would save the district money in the long run.

The school board voted 5-0 in April to add three more kindergarten rooms to Kirkersville Elementary School. The other choice was to add four smaller classrooms that could be used for any grade within that same space. However, board members agreed that establishing all-day, every-day kindergarten is an important long-term goal for the district.

Looking toward 2013, Zaino said the district may still face challenges housing students even with the new kindergarten rooms.

"We're at capacity now. I really think that should be discussed," she said, adding that next year is bound to have a few surprises in store.

"We'll be bringing people out of their comfort zone to make changes next year," Zaino predicted.

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