Whitehall-Yearling High School will operate with an interim principal until a successor is named for Paul Smathers, who stepped down as the school’s leader Sept. 25.

Smathers resigned to accept the position of director of safety and community relations in the Groveport Madison Local School District, said district spokesman Ty Debevoise.

Crystal Johnson, who served as assistant principal at Whitehall-Yearling during the 2018-19 school year, has been named the interim principal, Debevoise said Sept. 24.

Whitehall school board members accepted Smathers’ resignation late Sept. 23, Debevoise said.

Whitehall board members met in a closed executive session that evening, and upon its adjournment, opened a special regular session of the board to accept Smathers’ resignation, which was effective Sept. 25, Debevoise said.

Johnson, who left an administrative post she began only at the start of this school year, is expected to remain as interim principal until at least the spring, according to district Superintendent Brian Hamler.

“We will post (for the principal) in the spring,” Hamler said Sept. 25.

Johnson was named the district’s coordinator of student services, working out of the district’s administrative offices, for the current school year after serving last year as the assistant principal at Whitehall-Yearling High School.

Johnson came to Whitehall schools in 2018 from Denver Public Schools in Colorado.

“(Johnson) will now go back to the high school (as the interim principal),” Debevoise said.

Johnson said she is honored to be chosen to lead the school and for “the wonderful opportunity.”

Whitehall-Yearling’s current assistant principal, Maria Boyarko, will shift to the administrative building to take the role of coordinator of student services, the position that Johnson vacated.

The district will find “a full-time substitute” for the vacant position of assistant principal, a decision likely to be made this week, Debevoise said Sept. 24.

Hamler said Smathers first approached him “a few weeks ago” about the opportunity in Groveport.

“He approached me about letting him out of his contract to take a promotional position with Groveport,” Hamler said Sept. 24.

Smathers’ contract ran through July 31, 2020.

While the decision was “unexpected,” Hamler said, the resignation was not, and “only came after I agreed to release him.”

“(Paul) was very forthcoming (about his intentions),” Hamler said.

Smathers was named Whitehall-Yearling’s principal in March 2016 to succeed Carl Svagerko, who resigned.

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

Smathers once before resigned from Whitehall schools, but it never made official.

In June 2018, Smathers announced he had accepted a job as director of student services with Groveport Madison.

But in July 2018, he reversed course and said he was “not ready to leave.”

Because Whitehall’s board had never acted on Smathers’ pending letter of resignation, no other action was required in 2018, and Smathers simply remained principal.

Smathers said Sept. 24 he made his latest decision with “a very heavy heart.”

“It has been my honor and privilege to be the principal at Whitehall-Yearling High School,” he said, adding the opportunity to advance his career in educational leadership at Groveport Madison “could not be passed up.”

Smathers starts his new role there Thursday, Sept. 26.

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