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Dozens of residents filled the Northfield Elementary cafeteria in support of Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark during the March 20 School Board meeting.
Clark’s contract was up for renewal effective Aug. 1, 2018 extending his term through 2023. The renewal was simply a contract extension and made no provisions for compensation or benefits. Clark presently earns a salary of about $138,000. The measure passed unanimously by a vote of 4-0 after a mid-meeting resignation by Board Member Jim Szabo.
Board member Nick Berchtold told the News Leader March 22 via email he feels the district has improved greatly under Clark’s leadership.
“I believe Dr. Clark has the experience and passion necessary to make this District a great district,” Berchtold wrote. “We are not there yet as Dr. Clark will admit which is why he works tirelessly to provide and improve the tools and systems used to educate our students.”
He said there was a 4 percent improvement in the graduation rate of Nordonia students between 2011 and 2015, and the district is one of only three in Summit County that has received a grade of “A” for overall value added as defined by the Ohio Department of Education four years in a row, among other accomplishments.
Board member Tammy Strong said she feels the Board made a “good decision” with the contract extension.
“Clark works closely with the Board, his administration and staff, and the community to ensure all students receive a quality education,” she said “Our District continues to improve under his leadership.”
Approximately half a dozen residents spoke in favor of keeping Clark in the district, drawing applause from the dozens who were present in the audience.
Clark said he felt very lucky to be a part of the community.
“I am really grateful,” he said. “I love this community, I love the parents and the students. It makes me feel good to know so many are supportive of our mission, which is to do what’s best for the kids.”
Laura Gable, a Northfield Center resident and parent of two in the district, said that as an adjunct professor in a graduate psychology program she is impressed by Clark’s response during crisis situations within the district.
“We have had some significant crisis situations in Nordonia over the years, and I have been very pleased with the leadership and response by Dr. Clark ... Dr. Clark has displayed best practices in these crisis situations, putting the needs of students and staff first.”
In an email to the News Leader Board Member Liz McKinley agreed with Gable’s point of view stating “Dr. Clark has shown steadiness and compassion through the loss of three of our Knights.”
Gable said she is also thankful to the superintendent’s efforts to place Nordonia on forefront of technology.
“Schools today are training students for jobs that don’t even exist currently,” Gable said. “Dr. Clark’s efforts to be on the cutting edge of learning and technology have improved the future of all of our Nordonia students and in turn, our community.”
Delbert Groff, a 1978 Nordonia High School Graduate and area resident said Clark is a great communicator and he is good a connecting with the kids in the district. Groff also praised Clark’s work ethic by stating he has seen the superintendent work late hours and Gable stated she sees him at school events on the weekends as well.
Rob Siewert, a local parent, stood before the Board and said Clark’s “impact on the district and his commitment to excellence in education speaks for itself.”
“It is clear to me that (Clark’s) love of education and his commitment to the development of our children speaks for itself,” Siewart said. “Not renewing the contract of Dr. Clark would be a loss to our schools and our community.”
Siewert also took aim toward a local political action committee Citizens for a Strong Nordonia Hills’ Schools and said it “has found it impossible to acknowledge any of this positive progress,” and called its criticism “vitriolic.”
Chairperson of Citizens for a Strong Nordonia Hills’ Schools John Brachna spoke before the Board as well and called a vote in favor of Clark’s renewal a “rubber stamp” by the Board. He also said members McKinley and Chad Lahrmer should recuse themselves from the vote due to a “conflict of interest,” becuase they had once worked in the same school district together.
McKinley said that while she and Clark were employed by the same district at one time, they were not co-workers.
“I have never worked for or with Dr. Clark, just to be perfectly clear,” McKinley said. “We were employed by the same district.”
Berchtold said he is tired of Brachna calling Board votes “rubber stamping.”
“I stand by every decision I have made; If I had to do it again based on the same information I would do it again,” Berchtold said. “I am not a yes person ... hopefully this community feels that the Board does have its own mind as opposed to being a rubber stamp, and I take offense to you once again challenging that.”
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432