Life for Brian Hamler has just come full circle.

Life for Brian Hamler has just come full circle.

A product of the Whitehall City Schools, Hamler has been chosen as the district's new superintendent.

The Whitehall Board of Education on March 25 voted unanimously on Hamler as the new superintendent. Because only three members currently are on the board, a unanimous vote was required to approve the new hire.

Board president Walter Armes said members were pleased with the number of applicants for the position, as well as the quality. He said Hamler, though, was a clear standout.

"I'm thrilled to be back," said Hamler, who graduated from Whitehall in 1977. "I feel like I'm back home again. Whitehall has always had a dear place in my heart. I'm ecstatic."

This was the second selection process for superintendent. More than a month ago, the board narrowed 37 original candidates to seven and then to a final three.

Armes seemed to indicate the final interview process would result in a new superintendent.

Discussions apparently took an abrupt turn, with the board scrapping the entire list during a meeting held in executive session Feb. 14.

The district then accepted 39 applications the second time around. Hamler was on both lists.

Hamler served as principal at Beechwood Elementary School from 2001 to 2006 before taking over as director of personnel in the district.

As a result of drastic changes to the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, Hamler made the decision two years ago to retire from Whitehall, accepting a position in the South-Western City Schools as its new director of certified personnel.

At the time, Hamler said, the move was yet another stepping stone along a career path that he has hoped would lead to a superintendent's title. Little did he know the opportunity lay just around the corner.

"I was glad that I (took the position in South-Western) because I learned quite a bit," he told ThisWeek.

In fact, the experience made him a "better candidate" for the superintendent position, he said.

His top goal, he said, will be to continue raising student achievement. When he came to the district in 2001, Whitehall had just earned a D on its state report card. He is encouraged by the progress the district has made over the past decade, he said, meeting or exceeding growth three years in a row while increasing the percentage of student reaching the proficient level in 18 of the state's 24 benchmarked areas.

"And all over a five-year period," he said, adding that the progress had occurred while the district was busy building five new schools, which could have served as quite a distraction.

His challenge will be to continue that trend and move even higher, he said. Obstacles loom, though, he said. Classrooms continue to house a rising number of English as a Second Language students. Providing for a high number of economically disadvantaged students also continues to be a challenge, he said. By putting principals and teachers in charge while supporting the staff and their goals, success is sure to follow, he said.

"We, as administrators, are here to serve our buildings. That's been my approach to leadership -- help the principals be successful," he said.

The road to success needs to be clarified, though, he said.

"It's time to redefine Whitehall City Schools," he said.

Hamler said he would seek input from the community -- families, teachers and staff -- in the months to come as to the role of the district, defining what's important to them and to the students.

"What's the local expectation?" he said.

Beginning July 1, he'll get his opportunity to ask. That's when he'll come on board with a salary of $130,000 a year, about $10,000 less than Judy Dobbert-Meloy's current earnings.

Until then, he will be in and out of the district, monitoring its progress and continuing to confer with Dobbert-Meloy, a longtime supporter.

Hamler, who often likens life to sports, said he finally is no longer the assistant coach but is the head coach. That, he said, carries with it a certain satisfaction.

"It's the pinnacle of our profession," he said. "I look forward to leading."