Noble County schools name new superintendents

Two administrators from school districts in the region will be taking the reins in Noble County’s districts this summer.

Longtime Warren High School Principal Dan Leffingwell’s contract as superintendent of the Noble Local school district begins Aug. 1, while Swiss Hills Career Center Director Darren Cook becomes the Caldwell Exempted Village Schools superintendent June 10. Both hirings were approved by the respective boards of education earlier this month.

Leffingwell

Noble Local’s great reputation, supportive board and quality treasurer made the opportunity to be superintendent there a “tremendous” one, said Leffingwell, who is completing his 15th year as principal at Warren High School.

“It just seemed like a great fit,” he said.

Leffingwell, 47, joined the Warren Local district in 1994 as a teacher and coach and served as an assistant principal before being hired as principal in 1998. He will succeed Dan Doyle, who is retiring at the end of July after 12 years as Noble Local’s superintendent.

Leffingwell signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $92,000.

Doyle made the recommendation to the Noble board to hire Leffingwell. He noted Leffingwell is familiar through his work at Warren with the Race to the Top and Ohio Appalachian Collaborative programs in which Noble Local is also involved.

“(I) definitely want to see the district succeed and go to another level, and I think Dan Leffingwell can do that,” Doyle said.

Leffingwell said it would be premature to come in with a list of changes to make. For now, he said he wants to concentrate on maintaining the current quality that makes Noble attractive to students, drawing more in open enrollment than it loses.

“Obviously we want to provide and continue to provide quality opportunities for students,” he said.

Deciding to leave the district he’s worked in for nearly two decades was “absolutely one of the most difficult things I had to do,” Leffingwell said.

He and his wife of 24 years will continue to live in Vincent.

“Obviously we love the community, we love the friends and acquaintances we’ve made, and that’s why we’re excited that I can accept a promotion and continue to live here,” he said.

Leffingwell is one of multiple Warren administrators leaving after this year, but he said that seems to be just a matter of multiple opportunities presenting themselves at the same time. While some people have suggested a lack of support from the board of education played a role, Leffingwell said he didn’t feel that was the case.

“If I can receive the same amount of support in the next 19 years as I did in the previous (19), then it will have been a great career,” he said.

Some people might have seen Leffingwell as a potential successor to Warren Superintendent Tom Gibbs, who is leaving for a job with the Athens City school district. But Leffingwell’s contract with Noble was approved before Gibbs’ resignation was made official.

“Personally and professionally, you couldn’t ignore that,” he said, adding that he might have considered waiting if the Noble job hadn’t been such a great opportunity.

Leffingwell said he’ll provide whatever assistance he can to his successor at Warren and is confident the district is on solid ground moving forward.

“The Warren Local school district … was a great district long before any of us got here, and it’s going to continue to be a great district long after we’re gone,” he said. “Because the people in the community make it so.”

Cook

A U.S. Marine Corps Reserve veteran, Cook, 48, comes to Caldwell Exempted after three years as director of the Switzerland of Ohio Local school district’s Swiss Hills Career Center and 12 years in the district before that as a principal at every grade level and director of support services in the district office. He also spent five years as a teacher in the Frontier Local school district.

Although his hiring wasn’t approved until after the district’s 19-mill ongoing levy was approved by voters on May 7, Cook had committed to the job before then and even helped with the campaign.

“I thought it was important that the people see that the guy coming in here wasn’t just jumping on board because they passed a levy,” he said.

Caldwell board of education President Abby Crock said that assistance, without being under contract, showed the board something as well.

“It proved he really wanted to be here for the right reasons,” she said.

Having that levy will make some parts of Cook’s job easier, but he said he wasn’t afraid to take the job even if it had been rejected.

“It was a hell of a lot scarier in Iraq,” he said, referring to his tour there in 2005. He also served as a helicopter squadron sergeant major in Afghanistan in 2009.

Cook’s contract is for three years, with an annual salary of $82,000. He is in the process of assembling an administrative team, with Barlow-Vincent Elementary Assistant Principal Rebecca Johnson having already been hired as principal of Caldwell Elementary School. Now he’s “looking for that perfect fit for the high school also,” Cook said.

Along with the $920,000 a year the levy generates comes a commitment to be transparent with the people of the district, with “no secrets,” he said.

“(We’ll be) making sure that the community knows exactly where funds are being disbursed,” he said.

Cook said he felt comfortable with the board and “knew it was the right time for me to step up” and take the job.

Crock said Cook came with excellent recommendations and showed the board a good attitude.

“He seems like he will be very hard-working and honest and has a very strong work ethic,” she said.

Cook will succeed interim Superintendent Dora Jean Bumgarner, who stepped in in January after Superintendent William Brelsford was placed on unpaid medical leave.