Meet the newest public school superintendents in the Columbus area

School has or is about to start for many central Ohio districts, and several have new superintendents who are excited to be starting the new year.Since the start of 2023, four area districts have selected new superintendents: Upper Arlington Schools, Columbus City Schools, Olentangy Local and Westerville City Schools. They join several other Greater Columbus school districts that have changed leadership in recent years.Amid growing challenges and job pressures, the turnover rate for superintendents is the highest it has been since 2018, Education Week reported last year. Locally, there have been more than a dozen turnovers in superintendents in Franklin County over the past three school years, according to a Dispatch analysis of area districts.David Axner, executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, said that while the turnover rate in Ohio is larger than average this year, Franklin County still remains an attractive destination for superintendent candidates.“Almost every superintendent that you talk to that’s retired, — even though it’s hard, it’s stressful, it’s difficult — they say they’d do it again,” Axner said. “It’s just a really hard job. It obviously comes with  a lot of support …  but the magnitude of the student body and staff and so forth makes it very hard.” The Dispatch asked the four new superintendents about goals for their first year at the helm of their districts. Here’s what they had to say:Managing district growth key challenge for Olentangy Superintendent Todd MeyerOlentangy Local Schools Superintendent Todd Meyer wants the region’s second-largest school district with 23,500 students to feel smaller and focused on students.”We do a really good job of creating that welcoming, caring environment, that sense of belonging from when students start their journey with us, whether it’s preschool or kindergarten, all the way through 12th grade,” he said.Meyer isn’t new to Olentangy — he’s been with the district for over 15 years and three of his children have graduated from the district.”For the last eight years, I’ve kind of been the man behind the curtain … on the operation side,” he said. “So for me — now a superintendent — my main focus has been on relationships.”Since 1990, Olentangy, which is now the fourth largest district in the state, has grown rapidly. In less than a decade, the district has nearly doubled in population, from just over 12,000 students in the 2005-2006 school year to 23,500 students this fall.Community members played a vital role in helping the district deal with the impact of that growth, he said, by serving on a standing facilities committee that helped project enrollment and facility needs.But the rapid growth has led to overcrowding problems in the district. To help alleviate those issues, the district opened Berlin Middle School on Sunday, and it plans to open another elementary school by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year, to alleviate pressure off 12 of the 16 elementary schools that are at or over capacity, Meyer said.In an effort to better meet diverse students, Meyer said, the district also will increase its capacity for serving students who need English as a Second Language services. In the past two years, nearly 70 new English language learners have entered the district, according to Ohio Department of Education data.Meyer said the goal is to create a “caring environment where students feel supported, and honestly, welcome in our schools.”Meyer succeeds Mark Raiff, who announced in January he would retire at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.Prior to his selection to become the new superintendent in May, Meyer had already held a senior administration position as the district’s chief operations officer, overseeing the human resources and transportation departments and business and facilities group, which includes custodial, maintenance, food service and building management.While at Westerville City Schools, he served as the executive director of secondary curriculum and instruction and opened Westerville Central High School in 2003. Meyer was also an adjunct professor at Ashland University.He received his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University, and a masters from the University of Akron.Meyer has a 38-month contract that will pay him a base salary of $215,000 annually beginning June 1 through July 31, 2026.Robert Hunt sees a world of opportunity in Upper ArlingtonRobert Hunt, who officially began as superintendent for Upper Arlington City Schools on Aug. 1, knew central Ohio was a location he wanted to end up. And at Upper Arlington, he saw an opportunity to propel the district to new heights.In Upper Arlington, he sees opportunities for the district to be a statewide leader in public education, considering its proximity to Ohio State University and the Ohio Statehouse.”Part of why I wanted to be here, was ‘What kind of relationships can we forge?'” Hunt said of the district of 6,700 students and the many resources that abound in central Ohio. “How can we become a force for public education beyond just Upper Arlington and advocate for kids across the state?”Hunt has spent most of his career in Ohio, beginning at Chagrin Falls Schools in the Cleveland area, where for 17 years he worked his way up from assistant high school principal to superintendent — and “every seat in between.”In 2021, Hunt left Chagrin Falls to become superintendent of Barrington Area 220 School District, located north of Chicago in Illinois. While he planned on staying in Illinois longer, when Upper Arlington officials called him about the job, he said he couldn’t turn the opportunity down.”Having transitioned a few times, it’s different here,” Hunt said. “People want you to be successful, and they want to do what they can to help with that.”The district announced Hunt’s selection to replace former Superintendent Paul Imhoff who announced he would resign at the end of the 2022-2023 school year in January. In the coming months, Hunt said he will be building relationships with the community and “listening and learning about what has made this school district so successful.””The work didn’t stop when the last superintendent left and wait to start for me,” Hunt said. “There’s a lot of great work that’s ongoing, so one of my goals to is to help reinforce and ensure … that that work will continue.”Hunt holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kent State University, a master’s degree in educational administration from Ursuline College, and a doctorate in educational administration from Kent State University.Hunt will be paid $230,000 annually under his contract with the district.Westerville welcomes Joseph Clark as next superintendentOn Monday, the Westerville City Schools approved Joseph Clark’s contract, confirming his position as the next superintendent of the district of more than 14,000 students.While Clark has the new job jitters, he said he is ready to join the Westerville community.”Everybody’s been so welcoming, and so, so professional, that I think it’s gonna go really well,” Clark said. “We’re going to make sure we treat every child as if they’re our own. We want every student to feel comfortable with the school, feel safe in school.”While he doesn’t begin the new position until the first of October, after school has been underway for two months, Clark said he will visit the district 10 to 20 times to work on the transition.Clark has been superintendent of Nordonia Hills City Schools, a district of about 3,500 students in northern Summit County, since 2011. While Nordonia is a fraction of the size of Westerville, Clark said he sees many similarities between his former district and Westerville, including demographics, socio-economic position and the professionalism of the staff.He previously served as assistant superintendent of Nordonia Hills City Schools; assistant superintendent for Kent City Schools; assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent for Barberton City Schools; and high school English teacher for Springfield Local Schools. He also serves as a professor for the American College of Education, which is based in Indianapolis.Clark has a master’s degree in educational leadership and a doctorate in K-12 leadership, with a focus in school law from Kent State University.Clark will be paid $230,000 annually under his contract signed Monday.Angela Chapman focusing on building Columbus City Schools, relationships upOne of Columbus City Schools Superintendent Angela Chapman’s goals for her first full year is to continue to work on strengthening relationships within the district and in the community.”When I think about strengthening relationships, it’s strengthening relationships in the classroom, at the school level, at the district level,” Chapman said. “And with our community, that’s the work that we need to do. We recognize that it takes a village, and we cannot do this work alone. And so we have to be really intentional about how we do that.”In May, the CCS board selected Chapman as the next superintendent for the state’s largest district of more than 45,000 students. She replaces former Superintendent Talisa Dixon who announced late last year that she would retire at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.Chapman also told The Dispatch she remains focused on recent district priorities including focusing on early literacy, addressing chronic absenteeism and improving graduation rates. In August, the district held a professional development institute for teachers, for example, which emphasized literacy and ensuring students’ needs are met so they can reach graduation.She had served as the district’s interim superintendent since January, and was the district’s chief transformation and leadership officer before that, a position she had held since 2019 when hired by Dixon.Chapman began her career as a teacher and administrator in Ohio, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Akron, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University, and a Doctorate of Education in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University.Chapman will receive $265,000 annually for her three-year contract ending on July 31, 2026.@[email protected]

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