Two finalists have been named for the Lakota Schools superintendent’s job, but according to a report exclusively obtained Friday by the Journal-News, a committee of area stakeholders prefers one.
West Clermont Schools Superintendent Keith Kline, who is a former Lakota high school principal, is one of the two finalists from an initial pool of 16 announced last month.
But according to a summary of responses from the committee’s two dozen Lakota community residents, staff, school parents and business leaders – which was obtained through the Journal-News’ Ohio public records request – they prefer Mentor Schools Superintendent Matt Miller.
Miller, who has led the northern Ohio school system since 2012, was a late addition to the candidate pool and now may be a front runner, according to the committee.
Committee members were asked “would (this) candidate make a good superintendent?” and all 24 responded “yes” regarding Miller, while 19 said the same of Kline.
The committee’s recommendation is not binding.
Lakota’s five-member school board might make the final decision on whom to hire after their last interviews on Feb. 9.
Lakota Board of Education Vice President Todd Parnell said, “The board is very encouraged that the final two candidates picked by our community group are aligned with the final two picked by the board.”
“I believe the board will make the correct decision,” said Parnell.
Board President Ben Dibble released a statement Friday saying Kline and Miller “most closely embodied the skills, values and overall experience that will help our district continue making progress for the benefit of all our students.”
“Keeping with its commitment to involve the community at critical points throughout the process, the board also invited a cross-section of staff, parents, business leaders and residents to ask questions of the candidates and provide feedback,” said Dibble of the committee.
“Part of our decision involved reviewing the community input collected earlier in this process, as well as the feedback given by the 24 community members who participated in the recent meet and greet,” Dibble said in reference to the months of district officials soliciting public input on the hire in various community meetings and through online-surveys.
Miller told the Journal-News “the time I spent with the community group was invaluable and gave me additional insight into what makes Lakota a place I want to call home.”
“I am certainly appreciative of the board of education’s time and candor during the interview and I am sincerely thankful that they have named me a finalist,” said Miller.
Kline did not respond to a request for comment.
Kline is a Lakota resident and is the former principal of Lakota East High School and has lead the West Clermont school system since 2013.
Miller also led Ohio’s Celina Schools from 2005 to 2012.
“Both candidates demonstrated strong records of success in advancing their districts’ educational programming in ways that valued both community collaboration and financial responsibility,” Dibble said. “In the eyes of our board and the voices in our community, these themes are critically important to the future success of Lakota.”
Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia was granted medical leave from the job in late August. She was in the final year of her contract and the board replaced her with Acting Superintendent Robb Vogelmann, who was among the original group of candidates.
Initially board members predicted a hiring of a new superintendent for Ohio’s eighth-largest school system in March but Parnell said the decision could be made on Feb. 9.