New Albany News

Sawyers honored for his performance as ODE leader

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Buckeye Association of School Administrators recently recognized Michael Sawyers with the 2013 Distinguished Service Award.

Sawyers is chief of operations and strategic development for the New Albany-Plain Local School District and a former acting state superintendent.

Sawyers was given the award earlier this month for "going above and beyond and displaying exemplary leadership in the field," said Kirk Hamilton, executive director of the BASA.

"He did bold and courageous things at a critical time that influenced where we are today," Hamilton said.

Sawyers was hired by the Ohio Department of Education in 2010 and was serving as deputy superintendent when Superintendent Stan Heffner resigned in August 2012 after being accused of ethics violations.

At the time, the ODE was investigating allegations that some school districts altered attendance data to improve their ratings on the state report cards.

Hamilton said while serving as the acting superintendent, Sawyers implemented Ohio's Race to the Top initiative, which offered $4.35 billion in grants from the U.S. Department of Education for educational innovation and reforms to increase graduation rates and improve performance gaps.

Sawyers also helped develop Ohio's new report card system, during what Hamilton called a "difficult time."

Sawyers said the deputy superintendent "works daily with the superintendent of public instruction to operate the state department of education daily and to coordinate all the work necessary to fulfill legislative, state and federal requirements for Ohio's schools."

When Heffner resigned and Sawyers became acting superintendent, Sawyers said, "I had to shift how I did my work to incorporate the daily activities of the governor's office and his staff, the General Assembly, the state board of education and the United States Department of Education. I worked with my leadership team and ODE staff to help me rearrange how work processed with me given both roles I served simultaneously."

Hamilton said Sawyers had to make sacrifices while filling both roles.

"Finding balance was the hardest part of the seven months I performed both roles," Sawyers said. "Thanks to the incredible support of my family, the great staff at ODE and colleagues statewide, it became a team effort. My regular 12-14 hour workdays and constant electronic access allowed me to do both jobs simultaneously. I lived in an apartment in Columbus during the week and returned to my home base in northeastern Ohio on Fridays to be home for the weekend with my wife and kids to journey back to Columbus at 4:30 a.m. every Monday morning."

Sawyers said he didn't realize how many sacrifices he had made for the state until he left to take the job with New Albany last March.

"He carried the ball and made a significant difference in Ohio moving forward," Hamilton said. "He is a good man who performed an important role at an important time."

Sawyers has bachelor's and master's degrees in education and education administration from the University of Akron and is in the process of completing his doctorate degree.

He started his career as a Spanish teacher and taught in elementary, middle and high schools before working as a deputy principal and assistant principal in Parma City Schools.

Sawyers worked as director of curriculum assessment and as a human resources director before becoming the superintendent of Perry Local Schools in northeast Ohio, the job he held when he was hired by the ODE.

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