LORAIN — Wanted: Good communicator who can improve academics, increase enrollment and get levies passed in an impoverished school district in academic emergency.
That’s the job description for the successor to Superintendent Tom Tucker, who retires in June. Board of Education members at their Monday meeting discussed qualifications with Gregory Ring, Educational Service Center of Lorain County superintendent, whose group is being paid roughly $3,500 to help find a successor.
The application deadline is May 5. A tentative timeline calls for the top five candidates to be interviewed by board members in June with a new superintendent on the job July 1. Besides describing the qualities they seek in a superintendent, board members outlined the challenges he or she will face.
About 87 percent of Lorain Schools students live in poverty and many are transient, making learning harder. While Lorain has made strides under Tucker, it has been controlled by the unelected Lorain Academic Distress Commission since a 2013 state academic takeover due to low state test scores.
Enrollment in the roughly 6,600-student district has increased slightly since Tucker was hired in 2012, but decreased about 3,500 in the last decade due to depopulation, competition from charter schools and open enrollment. Tucker was able to get a levy passed in 2012 — the first new levy since 1992 — which stabilized finances. A small surplus is predicted for the end of the school year. However, under a worst-case scenario in which the district continues to lose students and state taxpayer aid remains flat, it could face a deficit of up to $5 million next year, Treasurer Dale Weber said in October.
While not ruling out candidates who are principals or assistant superintendents, board President Tony Dimacchia said he’d prefer an experienced superintendent willing to spend at least five years in the district. Board member Jim Smith said with Lorain’s population declining — it dropped from about 68,000 in 2000 to nearly 64,000 in 2013 — the new superintendent will need to promote district positives like the new Lorain High School opening in 2016.
“A steady increase in enrollment, we have to do that to survive,” Smith said.
Candidates will include at least one internal applicant. Assistant Superintendent David Hall told The Chronicle-Telegram he’ll apply. Hall, hired in 1999, had a son graduate from Lorain High School last year and has a daughter in the district.
“We have roots here,” Hall said of his family.
In other business
Board members hired Bob Klinar to become new Lorain High School principal beginning in August. Klinar replaces Assistant Superintendent Stephen Sturgill, who served as interim principal since Diane Conibear left in June 2014.
Klinar, 50, grew up in Lorain and was a teacher, head football coach and assistant principal at Southview High School from 1997-2001. Klinar, who also worked for the Wellington and Westlake school districts, is principal at Roosevelt High School in Kent where he was hired in 2011. Klinar told board members he’ll take a collaborative approach with staff and use creative ideas to improve academic performance.
“There’s a certain feeling of comfort and warmth coming back to Lorain after starting my administrative career here,” Klinar told board members. “I believe in this district. I’m a product of this community.”