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Lorain Schools assembles committee to recommend superintendent candidates

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LORAIN — A new Lorain Schools superintendent is expected to be in place for the start of the new school year in August, and the goal is to hire someone from Northeast Ohio.

“We’re not looking to be someone’s learning curve,” Board of Education President Tim Williams told members of the Lorain Schools Superintendent Search Committee during their first meeting Wednesday. “We want somebody who can hit the ground running.”

The committee, which is a subcommittee of the board, will recommend four or five candidates to the board. Williams said it hasn’t been decided whether the committee will rank the candidates it recommends.

The Ohio School Board Association will be paid $6,900 to assist committee members, said school Treasurer Dale Weber. Assistance will include developing a candidate profile, creating a timetable and screening candidates.

The committee, whose meetings are open to the public, plans to hold meetings with residents and advocacy groups to gain community input before applications are sought at the end of May. Williams urged committee members to be sensitive about revealing the names of candidates to residents because some candidates may not have told their employers that they’ve applied for the job.

“Be willing to listen, but don’t get into a dialogue, because nothing can be gained from that,” Williams said of conversations with residents.

The new superintendent will inherit a district with 182 fewer teachers and extensive program cuts due to a projected $12 million deficit. The layoffs and cuts are intended to eliminate about $7.4 million from the district budget, but the district faces continued red ink and a likely state takeover if it cannot get a levy passed. Lorain voters have not approved a new levy since 1992.

“We all know we’re at a crucial point right now without being able to pass levies,” said committee member and Lorain High School Principal Diane Conibear. “Recruiting a quality leader is going to be crucial to our future.”

Interim Superintendent Ed Branham said he hopes his successor can primarily focus on improving academics.

“I hate to say it, but I have not spent one hour addressing academics because of all the other issues,” he said.

Branham, whose contract runs through December, will advise his successor for 30 to 60 days depending on how long the new superintendent needs to get up to speed.

“You’re going to have to spend a little more money, but the learning curve is going to be improved,” said Mitchell Fallis, a board member and committee chairman.

The 10-member committee includes administrators, Board of Education members, parents and teachers. Williams said they were selected to reflect Lorain’s diversity. He stressed that all committee members are equal.

“Bring your biases and bring your aggressiveness, because the dynamics of the group will cancel them out,” he said. “Being here and being silent is not why you were asked to be on the committee.”

Lorain Schools search committee

A 10-member committee Thursday formally began the search for a new Lorain Schools Superintendent. Committee member and Board of Education President Tim Williams said committee members reflect Lorain’s diversity.

  • Ed Branham: 65, Lorain Schools superintendent and former administrator and teacher in the school district. Branham, a non-voting member of the committee, is expected to assist the new superintendent for the first 30 to 60 days after the hiring. “My replacement needs to be from Ohio or someone with experience in the state of Ohio.”
  • Diane Conibear: 40, Lorain High School principal, has two children at the school and was a former teacher in the district. “Recruiting a quality leader is going to be crucial to our future.”
  • Roberto Davila: 52, Longfellow Middle School teacher in Success For All (a federal program primarily designed to increase students reading skills) and former principal at the former Southview High School and a principal in Houston. “From my experience, I know a superintendent can improve the school environment.”
  • Mitchell Fallis: The 57-year-old committee chairman and board member was formerly an at-large city councilman. “Lorain Schools is at a crossroads … I want to be part of a win-win process.”
  • Marilyn Parker-Jeffries: The 57-year-old pastor at the New Creation Baptist Church retired in 2010 from her job as director of support services for the Domestic Relations division of the Lorain Court of Common Pleas. “I see this as an opportunity to be a voice for residents because some residents feel like they have no voice.”
  • Myrna Jones: 49, Admiral King Elementary School Success For All teacher. “My heart is in Lorain. I grew up here.”
  • Chase Ritenauer: 27, Lorain mayor and former North Olmsted public works commissioner. “It’s so important to have the city and schools as interconnected as possible.”
  • Robbie Sand: 41, founder of Parent Advocacy Group Effort and parent of two children in the district. “I want to be my parent’s best cheerleader.”
  • Dale Weber: 55, Lorain Schools treasurer and a former school treasurer in Olmsted Falls. Weber is expected to work closely with the new superintendent.
  • Tim Williams: 49, Lorain Board of Education president. “I have all the confidence in the world we will make a strong selection.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.



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