Whitehall Yearling High School Principal Paul Smathers will step down effective July 31 to take a job in Groveport.

Meanwhile, the search already is underway to identify his successor.

“I want to reassure the families and students that we will work diligently to find an outstanding high school principal for the fall,” Superintendent Brian Hamler said June 22. “Interviews for his replacement have already begun and we hope to have a recommendation (at the July 12 board meeting).”

Smathers submitted a letter of resignation June 19; his final day will be July 31, the final day of his contract, said Ty Debevoise, director of communications and marketing for Whitehall schools.

The letter – in which Smathers said he loved Whitehall and would “always be a Ram in my heart” – was submitted to Hamler and requires the acceptance of the Whitehall school board, Debevoise said.

The board is scheduled to meet June 28 but is expected only to consider financial matters during that meeting, according to board President Blythe Wood.

Board members anticipate accepting Smathers’ resignation at their meeting at 6 p.m. July 12 at the media center at Whitehall-Yearling High School, 675 S. Yearling Road.

Smathers has accepted the position of director of student services with the Groveport-Madison Local School District, pending its board approval June 27.

In an email June 20 to ThisWeek Whitehall News, Smathers said it’s a “bittersweet time” for him.

“I am very proud of the work that was accomplished by our staff during my time as principal,” he said. “The Whitehall-Yearling staff are a caring and dedicated group of educators. I have learned and gained valuable experience from (Hamler’s) outstanding leadership and he has made a profound impact on my career as an educational leader.

“I am going to miss Whitehall, I love this community, and genuinely care about the kids. I have made a lot of friends, I will stay in touch, and will always be a Ram in my heart.”

Smathers was hired in August 2014 as an assistant principal at Whitehall-Yearling and was named principal in March 2016, after the resignation of Carl Svagerko.

He had been an assistant principal at the school since 2014 after coming to the district from South-Western City Schools, where he was principal at Finland Middle School.

Smathers was selected from 62 candidates to succeed Svagerko, who resigned in December 2015.

Hamler said Smathers will “be sorely missed both professionally and personally.”

“During his time with us, he built a culture of family at our high school through his love for others. Paul excelled in so many facets of leadership, but his greatest strength was relationship building. I don't know of a more compassionate principal when it comes to working with students and their families. While I hate to lose him, I am happy for Paul as he advances his career and takes on a new challenge with the Groveport-Madison Local School District.

Wood said Smathers “made a positive, lasting impact on our community.”

“His work ethic, knowledge of curriculum and, most importantly, his genuine concern for his students and their families make him an exceptional educator. He will be missed,” Wood said.