Butler, Warren counties see more school superintendent turnover


Butler and Warren County public school districts with new superintendents hired recently or hired in 2015:

Fairfield Schools: Billy Smith, replacing Paul Otten.

Ross Schools: Scott Gates, replacing Greg Young.

Edgewood Schools: Russ Fussnecker, replaced Doug Lantz.

Hamilton Schools: Tony Orr replaced Janet Baker.

Butler Tech: Jon Graft replaces Bill Miller.

Lebanon Schools: Todd Yohey, replacing Mark North

Kings Schools: Tim Ackermann replaced Tim Spinner.

Springboro Schools: Todd Petrey left in May for chief operations officer for Mason Schools. School board will soon announce new superintendent.

Cincinnati Archdiocese Schools (11 schools in Butler and Warren counties): Susan Gibbons replacing Jim Rigg.

An unusually high turnover in area school superintendents’ jobs means more than 40,000 local students will see new school district leadership when classes re-open soon.

A half-dozen Butler and Warren county school systems will have different district leaders by August’s start of the new school year.

Compared to the rest of Ohio, the two counties’ changes among school superintendents is relatively high, say state and local school officials. The reasons behind each job change varies, but for some superintendents statewide, the decision to leave a top school post may have included the increasing challenges of running K-12 school systems, some officials said.

Local school systems that will open classes with new superintendents are: Fairfield, Ross and Butler Tech in Butler County and Lebanon and Springboro in Warren County.

Also, the Cincinnati Archdiocese Schools, which covers 19 Ohio counties and has 11 schools in Butler and Warren counties, just changed superintendents.

And Kings Schools in Warren County hired a new superintendent last year as did Hamilton and Edgewood Schools in Butler County.

Butler County’s Lakota Schools, which is the second largest district in Southwest Ohio, is expected to a have new superintendent at the start of the 2017-2018 school year to replace Karen Mantia, who plans to retire next summer.

“What is happening with changes in superintendents in Butler and Warren Counties appears to be something of an anomaly … when compared to the rest of the state,” says Tom Ash, director of governmental relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA).

“As of today, 74 of Ohio’s superintendents are leaving their positions this year, and 37 of those are for retirement,” says Ash, a former Ohio superintendent.

Though the five Butler and Warren public school districts losing superintendents account for less than 0.5 percent of Ohio’s 613 public school systems, the five departing local superintendents comprise 7 percent of the 74 school leaders statewide who are vacating their jobs this year.

There are 17 school public school districts in the two counties: 10 in Butler and seven in Warren County.

Greg Young, who later this month will retire as Ross Schools’ superintendent, says his departure was for personal reasons that had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the job.

But national studies of superintendents have shown some view the job as a 24/7, high-pressure cooker of responsibilities.

Public grade schools are increasingly the epicenter for a widening variety of society’s ills, whether they be gun and bomb threats, more frequent litigation, unfunded state and federal school mandates, contentious labor relations and other personnel issues and sometimes bitter local school tax levy campaigns comprise just a part of the lengthy list of challenges for superintendents.

“I believe that fewer educators are interested in moving into administration. They don’t want to deal with the issues facing today’s school administrator,” says Young.

Former Lebanon Schools Superintendent Bill Sears knows those issues well.

As Lead Consultant for Administrative Searches for the Hamilton County Educational Service Center, Sears has spent his retirement years helping Southwest Ohio school boards, which hire superintendents, to find qualified candidates.

Being a superintendent is tougher now than years ago, says Sears, who has nearly a half-century experience as a superintendent, school administrator and teacher in Ohio schools.

“As our society has become more complex so has the task of leading a school district. This complexity takes the job of being a superintendent well beyond the normal work day and responsibilities,” he says.

"We all know that it takes a good balance between your professional and personal life to remain in a top leadership role," says Sears, who recently helped Fairfield's Board of Education to hire Billy Smith as their new superintendent. "I believe some of the turnover is a result of leaders searching for that balance in their life."

According to the American Association of School Administrators, a national organization for school superintendents: The mean tenure for a superintendent is five to six years and the annual turnover rate for superintendents is between 14 and 16 percent.

Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association, says “Warren and Butler counties may be on a higher cycle this year due to retirements and other opportunities.”

“The reasons underlying the turnover picture varies widely from district to district. Most often it occurs due to personal factors, such as leaving to seek a higher-paying job, or a district that is more stable financially, or a career decision to retire,” says Asbury.

But he adds “sometimes, it is can be attributed to performance issues or conflict with the school board. Sometimes, it can be burn-out. Being a superintendent is a very rewarding, but also very challenging job. It is accompanied with demands coming from all quarters on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis. Political pressures, lack of stable financial resources, and increasing poverty all add to the challenge.”

Regardless of the reasons for the turnover, says Asbury, new superintendents need a wide base of support for their districts to succeed.

“New leadership offers fresh opportunity for needed change or a new approach to current issues,” he says. “At the same time, it comes with the need for a sharp learning curve for all. It is essential to support the new leader so that he or she can successfully meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.”

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