Superintendent Candidates Meet the Community
Thursday, February 07, 2013
About 130 people got to meet, greet and question three finalists competing for the post of Chardon Schools Superintendent Tuesday night at Chardon Middle School.
Painesville City Schools Superintendent Michael P. Hanlon, Willoughby South High School Principal Paul Lombardo and Brunswick Schools Assistant Superintendent Joelle Magyar were given five minutes to discuss their backgrounds and qualifications before answering questions from those attending.
While one candidate spent 30 minutes answering audience questions, the two others either were preparing for or undergoing questions from teachers in another part of the building.
“We are all here tonight because the board values your opinion. Community input can be diverse and contradictory,” said Chardon Schools Board of Education President Karen Blackenship.
In response to an audience question, Hanlon said student achievement would be his top goal, although emphasis also needs to be given to educating students who are not college bound.
“I believe administrators in my district would describe me as being hands-on, active and involved in everything they are doing in terms of their building leadership,”?Hanlon said.
Among his other priorities are staff accountability, long-term financial stability and making sure the school district scores well on its state-mandated report card and student testing, he said.
Although Hanlon said he prides himself on building new Painesville schools on time and under budget, some audience members were more concerned about how he would improve Chardon Schools’ bleak financial picture and convince voters to pass a levy.
“Long-term fiscal stability in this district — that has to be there,” replied Hanlon, who said he has been the primary leader of successful and unsuccessful campaign strategies in Painesville.
“I’m not saying we immediately would go for a levy, but one of the things I would do is evaluate current expenditures and see if there are areas where we can achieve economies,” he added.
One woman said she is aware of a comment Hanlon previously made about possibly retiring in 2016.
She questioned why he is seeking the Chardon superintendent’s post.
“In that comment, I also said ‘or look for other career options,’ which is exactly what I am doing,” replied Hanlon, 50. “I have a lot of time left in terms of what I would like to do and what I would like to accomplish professionally.”
Lombardo said he prefers to lead by example and uses a “collaborative” style leadership, one of the reasons he said his high school has placed in the top 15 percent of Ohio high schools.
He also was asked to discuss his philosophy about how to pass a levy, which has failed in Chardon four times in the last few years.
The answer is “better communication” and informing voters school money can be saved by “looking at where every penny is going,” Lombardo said.
“That includes making sacrifices by the administration and staff — it’s a two way street — and then telling people about those sacrifices, and asking them to make a sacrifice,” he said.
Lombardo, who has been involved in promoting Willoughby-Eastlake school levies, said the key is involvement.
“But it takes quite a few people to make this happen and letting (voters) know about the sacrifices that have been made,” he added.
A levy he worked on failed by 95 votes, but was later approved by voters after making $12.5 million in budget cuts, he said.
No cuts should harm student education or extra curricular activities, Lombardo said.
“That has to be the last resort,” he said.
Magyar, who lives in Mentor, said costs can be cut by introducing technology in the classroom and administrative procedures, such reducing the amount of paper used for copies.
“It costs a lot,” Magyar said.
She also has a collaborative and hands-on approach to management and administration by personally making presentations to teaching staff, fellow administrators and the board of education.
Although she is planning to embark on a doctorate degree, the current Brunswick superintendent “has taken it upon himself to say, ‘It is my job to prepare you to be a superintendent. So I am going to give you as much experience in all roles (of administration),’” she said.
They include curriculum, personnel work, discipline and conversations with parents about their children, Magyar said.
In response to a question about her career motives, she said the Chardon superintendent’s post “is not a stepping stone” in her career because she has “no desire to be district hopping at all."
She added, "For me, this is the job. I have 17 years left. I could see me staying here. That's why it's so exciting for me to be here in Chardon."
Her levy philosophy involves informing voters of student success stories and how schools have overcome a crucial problem, such as the Feb. 27, 2012 Chardon High School shooting.
Every possible campaign levy strategy needs to be examined while the community needs to become involved as much as possible, Magyar said.
Levy campaigns need to “tell these stories” and not rely as much on statistics used in a levy campaign, she said.
“Signs in yards don't pass levies. It has to be a grassroots effort,” Magyar said.
The interviews are only part of a process that involves collecting other information, reviewing all the candidates’ interviews and examining the administrative, educational and financial philosophy of each before a decision is made, Blankenship said.
The board met in executive session Tuesday following the public and teacher interviews, and again on Wednesday.
After the public interviews, Blankenship and board member Guy Wilson said a decision is likely to be made before the end of the month.
Then a round of discussions about salary and other benefits is expected before a deal is finalized, they added.
The candidate chosen will replace Superintendent Joe Bergant, who plans to retire in June after serving as the school district’s top executive since 2005.