District emails show some unease on process, timeline for Dublin's superintendent hire

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Last month, Dublin City Schools leaders landed their “targeted” candidate – John Marschhausen – to succeed Todd Hoadley as superintendent, less than one month after Hoadley announced his resignation.

School board President Chris Valentine said the process moved quickly because of familiarity with Marschhausen: He was the "targeted" candidate because he had interviewed for the Dublin superintendent job in 2013 before accepting the same post at Hilliard City Schools when both districts were shopping for a new leader at the same time, and he had remained well-known because the neighboring districts often collaborate.

But a multitude of emails obtained through a records request and sent directly to ThisWeek communicated some unease about the process and timeline.

Dublin City Schools' Emerald Campus.

The emails among Valentine, other board members and school district residents, after Hoadley announced at a school board meeting March 8 that he was stepping down as superintendent, illustrate a concern for a lack of transparency, the swiftness at which the search was executed, the exclusion of a greater number of stakeholders’ involvement in the process and the hiring of a consulting firm co-owned by a former Dublin district official even while the board made it known Marschhausen was No. 1 on the list.

At a special board meeting March 18, members approved a contract for an amount not to exceed $8,000 for K-12 Business Consulting Inc. to assist in a superintendent search on behalf of the district.

ThisWeek had asked district spokesman Doug Baker multiple times about the extent to which the public would be involved in the process.

"The Board (hasn't) scheduled anything yet. I will keep you posted. Like I say, about 55 community and staff members met with (Dr.) Marschhausen last week," Baker said April 1 via email.

Also March 18, all five board members – four of whom had interviewed Marschhausen in 2013 – met with Marschhausen in a closed executive session, with the stated reason being “to consider the employment of a public employee or official,” which is one of the exceptions to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws requiring school boards, councils and other public bodies to hold meetings open to the public.

On March 25, Marschhausen met with Dublin’s internal and external committees, each separately, and without the presence of board members, Valentine said during a May 4 interview.

The district had solicited "stakeholders" for the singular purpose of interviewing Marschhausen, and they constituted members of external and internal committees, Baker said.

Invitations were sent March 19 "on Behalf of the Board of Education," according to the emails.

Also according to the emails, Chris Mohr, a former district treasurer and co-owner of K-12 Business Consulting Inc., had proposed two "Meet and Greet Committees" for the March 25 sessions. He included a spreadsheet called "Meet and Greet Invitees" for school board members to note "folks they believe should be invited."

The board, however, did not appoint members to the committees.

Members of both committees included but were not limited to city officials, such as Dublin City Council members, mayor’s office personnel, Dublin Chamber of Commerce employees, representatives from the school district’s PTOs and the committee on diversity, equity and inclusion, building principals and teachers and those representing the district’s certified and classified employees, Valentine said.

On April 5, and after considering the feedback from the internal and external committees, board members hired Marschhausen, who resigned from his post in Hilliard on April 30 and began serving as interim superintendent in Dublin on May 1.

Dublin City Schools

The emails showed committee members had appeared ready to move quickly.

On March 26, Heather Carlisle, business-development director with the Dublin-based OCLC, wrote to Valentine: “Thank you for the opportunity to ‘interview’ Dr. Marschhausen last night. I am glad that the board is recognizing the need to move, and move quickly. ... When I first heard that Dr. Hoadley was stepping back, my first thought was that we should go get Dr. M, so, full speed ahead. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Let’s get him before it is too late.”

But only days before Marschhausen met with the internal and external committees, many were questioning Valentine about the process.

In a March 23 email, Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher, a former Dublin City Council member and mayor and former president and CEO of the nonprofit HandsOn Central Ohio, wrote to Valentine, “I am shocked at the BOE hiring Chris Mohr to run the search for our new superintendent. At the very least, he should have removed himself based on having a conflict of interest. He certainly would take into the process his own prejudices about the Dublin system (and) that is not to say anything about his own contentious relationship with the system and the community when he was here.”

Mohr was not involved in the hands-on process of vetting superintendent candidates for the district but helped with the external and internal committees and the question-and-answer process, Valentine told ThisWeek on May 5.

"He did not select those committees, (and) he played zero role in targeting (Marschhausen). That was the board," he said.

Many emails to and from K-12 showed Mohr as the point of contact.

Chinnici-Zuercher asked Valentine to “reconsider this hire” or “at the very least, closely (monitor) the process.”

In his reply, Valentine said he understood the concern, adding that the board previously used K-12 for a treasurer search “without issue,” which Valentine reiterated when speaking to ThisWeek about the email exchange.

“Marilee’s words speak for themselves,” Valentine said May 4.

However, that concern was not raised by her when Dublin schools used K-12 about five years ago to find the current treasurer, Brian Kern, Valentine said.

“Marilee is a great advocate for Dublin schools, but (if using K-12) wasn’t a problem then, I find it difficult to take that complaint (now),” he said.

Board member Rick Weininger, the only member not on the board when Marschhausen interviewed in 2013 for the Dublin job, questioned the need for a search firm while targeting a specific candidate.

In a March 11 email, only three days after Hoadley announced he was stepping down and seven days before the board hired K-12, Weininger wrote to Valentine, “Looks like a lot of work and expense if we are going to 'target' a candidate.”

Weininger said May 5 that the purpose of the March 11 email was only to question the function or the need of using K-12.

"The rest of the board members had been through this process of hiring a superintendent before and I had not," Weininger said. "Chris and I had a good follow-up conversation about the search firm duties and I did vote to approve knowing" that K-12 would screen and identify candidates.

He said he is "pleased with the efforts of the search firm."

Chinnici-Zuercher also had questioned the need for a search firm.

Valentine responded to her that it is a “very small contract.”

“If for some reason we do not proceed with the targeted candidate, the groundwork is already laid for our next steps, so that we don’t miss a beat,” Valentine wrote in response.

Valentine told ThisWeek in March that it was necessary to pursue parallel paths in identifying a superintendent in the event the district could not reach an agreement with Marschhausen, who had received counteroffers from Hilliard to remain with the district.

The district spent $5,250 for the search performed by K-12 Business Consulting, according to an invoice.

The firm identified superintendent candidates in the event the district needed it, Valentine said.

A March 25 email to Dublin’s board from Mohr identified Jennifer Penczarski, superintendent of Kenton City Schools, as a “lead finalist.”

Despite Valentine’s explanation of a “hiring season” for superintendents nearing an end in the early spring, some residents still told Valentine the process lacked transparency and was rushed, whereas others lauded the go-get-it approach.

School district resident Mindy Miller, in a March 22 email to Valentine, wrote, “Obviously, there was a decision made as to what PTO presidents and key communicators were invited to participate, otherwise they all would have been invited. The fact that the group is small only reinforces that some were chosen and others were not ... 40 people in a community of 47,000 people seems woefully small.”

Valentine, in a March 22 email to Dublin’s deputy superintendent, Tracey Deagle, addresses a Miller email to Deagle that also questioned the size of the committees, writing, “I tried to tell (Miller) that you guys were tasked with picking the group. The answer is pretty easy. The search firm said to go with 40 people, plus we need to maintain social distancing.”

School district resident Vincent Wang wrote Valentine, “I was very concerned how the search process was conducted in such a short amount of time. ... Some Dublin school district communicators expressed that there were kept in the dark about the search.”

Not every email from district residents was critical of the process.

School district resident Dan Magnussen wrote March 22: “You continue to do a great job managing the various points of view in our community. Too many people think they need to be involved in every little thing. You and the other board members were elected to do this job. ... At the end of the day everybody and their brother cannot have a say.”

Valentine, in response to those who had criticized the constitution of the committees, particularly its size, said the board followed the advice of K-12, and logistically, it cannot be oversized.

“There’s not a way to involve everyone who wants to be involved without slowing down (the hiring) process,” said Valentine, adding he still stands on how the board acted to land Marschhausen as superintendent.

When asked by ThisWeek if he was surprised at the pushback, Valentine said when considering how the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have divided people, “nothing surprises me.”

Other details

Hoadley will fulfill his current contract set to expire July 31; he would have had a new four-year contract beginning Aug. 1, according to Baker.

He will is receiving a new four-year, 120-day-a-year administrative contract, with an annual salary of $125,000 for 120 days, Baker said. The "120-day" status of the new contract means that Hoadley will work 120 days of the year, according to Baker.

The new contract also will have benefits worth roughly 30% of the annual salary, according to Baker. That would mean the value of benefits would be about $37,500.

Hoadley's expiring contract includes an annual salary of $187,695, with benefits for annuity, longevity, car allowance, retirement and Medicare worth $82,575 and health insurance worth $21,173, Baker said.

Marschhausen's five-year contract is effective Aug. 1 through July 31, 2026, and provides him with a starting annual base salary of $195,000.

The contract provides for "incentive pay" equal to 2% of the base salary for each of five standards the board determines to have been met during annual performance reviews, according to the contract. The district will pay 85% of the cost to provide family health, dental and vision insurance and a full contribution toward the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, per the contract.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo