Lakota lost principals at a high rate in 2012
WestChesterBuzz.com will count down the area’s top 12 stories of 2012 this month, concluding with West Chester’s most discussed topic of the year on Sunday, Dec. 30.
List of Lakota’s principals
Information taken from past articles written by Adam Kiefaber and Michael D. Clark
New changes within the Lakota school district like further teachers cuts, shorter school days for high school and junior high students, a healthier food menu for students, a pilot program to see how personal wireless devices like cell phones could help in the educational process and an influx of new school principals were among the fresh topics when school started Aug. 23, 2012.
In total, 10 of the school district’s 22 schools have new leaders. Many of those have been promoted within, replacing retired principals or others who have moved on to better paying positions in other school districts.
“Our new administrative team that we have in place, some of them have strong ties,” said Suzanna Davis, who is now the principal at Lakota East High School after being promoted from East’s freshman campus.
“Obviously, there is some history here in the district and they have done an outstanding job for us. They have been wonderful in terms of the culture of Lakota and being able to maintain those expectations.”
In addition to Davis, G. Elgin Card was promoted to lead Lakota West High School after previously serving as the principal of West’s Freshman Campus. Other new principals (full list above) include Brad Lovell (Creekside Early Childhood), Paulette Grady (Cherokee Elementary), Joanna Sears (Endeavor Elementary), Christina French (Hopewell Elementary), Ben Brown (Union Elementary), Eric Bauman (Liberty Junior), Stacy Millburg (Lakota East Freshman) and Jason Jackson (Lakota West Freshman).
While attrition fluctuation at any school district is an annual spring event, the extent at Lakota is unusually high in the district’s 55-year history, district officials said.
The leadership drain has officials at the academically top-rated school system worried.
“We have to put a tourniquet on this pretty quickly,” Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia said during a school board meeting in June.
Gary Elgin Card, who served as the Lakota West Freshman Campus Associate Principal last year, was promoted to the position of principal at Lakota West High School. Card replaced retired Lakota West Principal Richard Hamilton. Photo taken by Tony Jones in Sept. of 2012.
Lakota, with 17,400 students, is the second-largest district in Southwest Ohio (behind Cincinnati Public Schools) and seventh-largest in the state. Lakota is the largest school system among Ohio’s 613 public districts to earn the state’s highest rating – “Excellent with Distinction.”
But historically deep budget cuts in response to a string of tax levy defeats have left Lakota scrambling financially, with less staffing and fewer resources – all reasons cited by departing principals, Mantia said, based on her exit interviews.
“The number one reason is the financial insecurity from the failure of levies,” said Mantia, citing comments from those departing for other jobs.
Another reason for some departures reflects well on Lakota, Mantia said, in reference to extensive training Lakota provides principals. Lakota principals are in demand, she said.
Thomas Ash, a 39-year-veteran of public schools and now director of governmental relations for Ohio’s Buckeye Association of School Administrators, said Lakota is not alone.
“The turnover in building principals reflects both increased opportunities and anticipated public retirement reforms,” said Ash. “This year, about 60 of the superintendent vacancies in Ohio were filled by former school principals.”
“In addition, I would anticipate more retirements throughout the education profession over the next couple of years because of probable changes impacting both cost-of-living allowances and actual pension benefits,’’ Ash said. “Since they will not receive the benefits that they had anticipated a few years ago, they are electing to leave education sooner than they had planned.”
Lakota’s veteran school board member Joan Powell shares Mantia’s concern and she said pay freezes for school administrators – as part of sweeping budget cuts – play a role.
“This exodus of administrators is troubling but not surprising. These individuals have experienced a decrease in their take-home pay over the last five years, while being asked to take on more responsibilities with fewer resources,” Powell said.
“While some turnover is to be expected and can actually keep the organization dynamic, there is a point where you can risk losing the sense of connection and direction.’
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