- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
One of the rising stars of Lakota Local Schools will become the new leader of Middletown City Schools, the Journal-News was the first to report Monday.
Marlon Styles Jr., the executive director of curriculum and instruction for Lakota, was chosen through unanimous vote by the Middletown Board of Education on Monday evening as the district’s next superintendent.
“We will be innovative and modernize our approach to provide our students with a strong educational experience and we will introduce a strong sense of Middletown pride and I hope to be the source of inspiration for that in this district and this community,” Styles told the board after the vote.
Styles, who is a former principal of Mount Healthy High School in Hamilton County, said, “I’m looking forward to partnering with you and the community to making a difference in the lives of our students … and I’m ready to get to work.”
Middletown School Board President Chris Urso said the 37-year-old Styles won over the five-member governing board of the Butler County city school system with his resume, intelligence and leadership qualities.
“He comes here with a past that is full of great experiences, being at Mount Healthy and being at Lakota, you can see the young man is ready for this challenge. The charisma, the intellect, all those pieces gives us the utmost confidence that as superintendent he’ll lead our district in a good direction,” Urso said after the vote.
Styles, who will earn $138,000 annually, will replace current superintendent Sam Ison, who initially retired but then accepted a principal’s job with Wayne Local Schools in Warren County.
Styles will be the first African American to serve as superintendent in Middletown Schools’ history, though the district has had a black, interim superintendent.
About 18 percent of Middletown’s 6,400 students are African American.
Styles moved from Mount Healthy Schools to Lakota Schools in 2013 and is credited by district officials there with revamping and modernizing the 16,500-student’s curricula, particularly in the areas of classroom instruction focusing more on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Prior to his Mount Healthy stint he served as assistant principal at Hamilton County’s Wyoming High School and Northwest High School and as a middle school math teacher in the Winton Woods Schools.
He is a graduate of Thomas More College and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Cincinnati.
In his cover letter that accompanied his application for the Middletown job, Styles cited newly adopted strategic goals for improving the troubled city school district, which in recent years has been one of the lowest performing districts in Southwest Ohio according to the state’s annual report card.
“I believe I have the diverse experience, leadership, skills and commitment you are looking for to lead the Middletown Schools,” wrote Styles in documents obtained by the Journal-News last week through a public records request.
“In collaboration with all Middletown city school district stakeholders, we would infuse modern learning opportunities into our schools to positively impact student learning,” wrote Styles.
Veteran Lakota Board of Education member Ray Murray, who cast a vote in 2013 to hire Styles, praised the new Middletown leader as a “smart choice for the job of superintendent of the Middletown School district.”
“His knowledge of curriculum design and professional development will bring a positive and immediate impact on student learning. Marlon is a true leader in education and the residents of Middletown are getting a top notch superintendent,” said Murray.
Under Ohio law, school boards hire district superintendents and treasurers. Traditionally, superintendent contracts begin on Aug. 1, but Middletown board members included a stipulation in Styles’ contract that he will work 15 days total for Middletown in the months of June and July.
In March, the board hired the K12 Business Consulting search firm to assist in developing a superintendent search profile and to recruit potential candidates.
The same firm earlier this handled Lakota’s search for a new superintendent, resulting in the hiring of Matt Miller.
School officials offered online surveys to city residents and held a series of public input meetings to formulate a candidate profile and the qualities district officials, school employees, residents, business and city leaders were seeking in a new superintendent.
Work is continuing on a $96 million transformation of the Middletown High School campus that includes the building of a new middle school and a massive renovation of the adjacent high school.
The two schools will be connected by a new gym and athletic center. The two projects are scheduled to be completed in 2018, though some high school classroom spaces will be opened this spring.