McConnell named new district chief

Published 12:14 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

CHESAPEAKE — A 5 to 0 vote by the Chesapeake Board of Education has put a retired Fairland superintendent into the top spot in the Chesapeake school district.

At a special meeting Tuesday the school board voted to offer Jerry McConnell a two-year contract as the district’s new superintendent.

“We think it is a real good fit,” board president Carl Lilly said. “No. 1 Jerry had more experience. We feel like he has better people skills. We felt like his personality was basically what we were looking for to bring the community back together.”

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McConnell is replacing Dr. Scott Howard, who came to the district five years ago. Howard, who received a base salary of approximately $100,000 a year plus benefits, resigned at the end of June without citing a reason.

Howard is now the executive director of the Ohio Strategic Training Center at the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

McConnell’s hiring is contingent upon his accepting the board’s offer of a $85,000 a year salary. Lilly expects the overall package to cost the district about $100,000 a year, which is about $40,000 less than Howard’s package.

“He is hired today and can start to work today, contingent on (accepting) the contract,” the board president said.

McConnell was one of three finalists for the post along with Ken Cook, current superintendent of South Point schools, who retired last year to be rehired for the same position by the board through the spring of 2013; and Dr. Thomas Gay, president and CEO of Quality Schools Group, a consulting firm near Detroit, Mich. Gay is a former superintendent of four school districts.

McConnell retired from the Fairland district in 2011 after 25 years in that job. He started at the district in 1973 as an elementary teacher after earning a degree from Ohio University. He stayed in the classroom for six years. During that time he earned a master’s in educational administration from Marshall University. In 1979 he became a principal at Fairland staying in that position until 1986 when he became superintendent.

Cook earned a bachelor’s degree from Marshall University in 1972 in physical education and social studies. He worked for two years as a head tennis coach, assistant track coach and graduate assistant at Marshall. During that time he earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling before becoming a special education teacher at Fort Gay (W.Va.) High School for one year.

In 1975 Cook joined the South Point district as a guidance counselor at the high school. Three years later he took over as principal at Burlington Elementary for 10 years, becoming principal of South Point Middle School in 1988. He stayed at that job until 2002 when he became superintendent of the district.

Gay earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Finley in1976; a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton in 1978 and a PhD, also from Dayton in educational leadership in 1999.

Before heading Quality Schools, Gay was superintendent of four districts: Southwest Licking in Licking County, Ohio, Radford Union in Wayne County, Mich., Waldron Area Schools in Hillsdale County, Mich., and Lapeer, Mich. schools. After leaving Lapeer, he became regional vice president of curriculum at Mosaica Education Inc., in New York City, then vice president at Quality Schools before heading the consulting group.

There were nine candidates who applied for the job, but only those three were interviewed by the board.

The other candidates were Lori G. Marken, special education teacher for Watson Institute, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Jeremy Newman, Symmes Valley Elementary principal; Michael Staggs, superintendent at New Boston Local; Dr. William Capehart, associate professor at University of Rio Grande and former superintendent at Boyd County, Ky., and Rockingham County, Ohio schools; James Jones, former Ashland County, Ohio, schools and Twinsburg City schools, superintendent and Dennis DeCamp, superintendent for the Dawson-Bryant district.

“I am tickled to death,” Lilly said. “He was basically my choice. Everybody had a choice. It took two weeks to go through a process of elimination.”

Also at the meeting the board accepted the resignation of district treasurer, Sandee Benson. A replacement will be sought locally and the job was advertised Wednesday.

“She felt it was time (to leave),” Lilly said.

Deadline for resumes for the treasurer’s job is Sept. 8 with the board expected to make a decision on Sept. 10, at its regular monthly meeting.