The Whitehall City School District will join several other central Ohio school districts in the search for a new superintendent this year.

The Whitehall City School District will join several other central Ohio school districts in the search for a new superintendent this year.

Whitehall school board members met last week with Kathy LaSota, director of school board services for the Ohio School Boards Association, as they began to map out their plan to find a new superintendent by spring.

Longtime Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy announced this summer that she would retire in about a year.

Dobbert-Meloy handed board members her letter of resignation Aug. 9 during an executive session meant to discuss her annual review.

After more than three decades in education, Dobbert-Meloy said, "It's time."

She said she would not leave, though, until the district's construction project is finished and the final building, Whitehall-Yearling High School, has been dedicated. The new school is slated for completion sometime next summer.

Whitehall hired OSBA earlier this year to help in the superintendent search. LaSota met with board members last week in an effort to get the ball rolling.

The district and the OSBA are expected to officially launch its search in early December, with the hopes of screening candidate applications in January.

They hope to make a final selection by March, giving themselves enough of a cushion to ensure a smooth transition.

In response to concerns aired by school board president Walter Armes, who said he fears the high number of open superintendent positions could water down the pool of candidates, LaSota assured district representatives that she has a solid strategy to find just the right candidate for Whitehall.

"We try to go after people who fit your profile, who want to work here in Whitehall," she told board members last week.

Though school board members are charged with making the selection, the district will gather input from the community and staff focus groups.

During last week's work session, board member indicated they are looking for a superintendent who is a great communicator and a strong leader who can problem-solve and plan long term; who is experienced with academic achievement and uses innovative ideas to reach academic goals; who is a strong advocate for the students and staff; who is realistic but unafraid to make decisions; and who is approachable and promotes an open-door policy.

Tackling the district's challenges will be a priority, they said, including managing its growing enrollment and capacity issues; continuing progress in academic achievement while staying fiscally responsible; overseeing the final phases of a multi-million-dollar construction project; staying in tune with a diverse population and meeting their needs; maintaining a positive relationship with local unions, the community and the staff; and tackling state budget issues.

Dobbert-Meloy has been the district's superintendent for the past 13 years.

Board members agreed that having a doctorate is not a requirement for the position and that previous superintendent experience is preferred but not required.

Board members differed on whether teaching and school administrative experience were required. Armes and board member Blythe Wood said such experience should be a must, but board members Mike Adkins and Brandon Howard said it should be preferred. The board's vice president, Ronda Howard, said it was not necessary.

Salary, they agreed, would be negotiable.