Whitehall News

Board will start over in superintendent search

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Whitehall Board of Education members won't have another list of potential superintendent candidates until March 6, putting their search about a month behind schedule.

Board members voted Feb. 14 to start their search over, not satisfied with the 37 candidates who applied for the position in January.

Longtime Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy announced her plans to retire last year. After more than three decades in education, she told the district it's time to move on to other things.

She held the job in Whitehall for some 13 years but will not retire until the new high school is finished in the summer.

Originally, the board had hoped to make a final selection by March 15. That deadline has been pushed back a month now that the panel has chosen to return to the drawing board.

Board president Walter Armes has indicated he wants to move fast with the selection.

Kathy LaSota, director of school board services for the Ohio School Boards Association, is leading the search. Whitehall hired the OSBA in 2012 to aid in the process.

LaSota said a search relaunch happens occasionally but cautions against rushing the new search.

"The board needs to do everything they can to get this right for the district," she said following news of the board's decision.

Although LaSota's original efforts resulted in 37 applications for the position in Whitehall, she said she could expand the search even further.

"My team and I make personal phone calls, review applicants to similar searches, call on our peer searchers from other state associations and re-connect with individuals who started but didn't complete the application process the first time around."

A total of seven candidates made it to the short list, including George J. Joseph, executive director of administrative services for Worthington City Schools; Ryan McClure, principal at Darby High School in Hilliard; Tara D. Meyerink, superintendent of Buckeye Central Local Schools; Tyrone L. Olverson, director of K-12 curriculum and instruction for Licking Heights Local Schools; Michael Scott Reeves, executive director of secondary academic affairs and extracurricular programs for Westerville City Schools; Richard D. Smith Jr., superintendent of the North Union Local School District; and Michael B. Staggs, superintendent of the New Boston Local School District.

Three -- Joseph, Olverson and Smith -- made it to the final cut. But despite encouraging words from Armes earlier in the month, at least some board members must have had second thoughts.

Discussions about scrapping the entire list were held in executive session Feb. 14. The reason for the change of heart has not been made public.

During last month's working 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 for the 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 yet not afraid 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.

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

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

Salary, they agreed, is negotiable.

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