Warren finalists will face the public

Before the Warren Local Board of Education decides who will be the school district’s next superintendent, community members and employees will vet the candidates.

Strasburg-Franklin Local Schools Superintendent Curtis Clough, Clear Fork Valley Local Schools special education director Michael Edwards and New Lexington Elementary Principal J. Gregory Grant have been invited to a Saturday meeting at Warren High School. Warren board President Sid Brackenridge said the candidates will rotate between a group of district employees and one or two groups of residents during the session, which starts at 9 a.m. in the high school auditorium.

“They’re going to then ask the candidates various questions from the group,” Brackenridge said.

The format has not been completely settled. Brackenridge said questions, some of which have already been submitted online at the district’s website, www.warrenlocal.org, could be read by a designated individual or those present may be able to ask their questions themselves.

The three men were among six interviewed by the Warren board earlier this week and 18 who applied for the job after it was posted in anticipation of Superintendent Tom Gibbs’ resignation last month to take a job with Athens City Schools.

Clough is completing his second year as superintendent at Strasburg-Franklin in Tuscarawas County, north of Noble and Guernsey counties. He taught social studies and coached in Ohio junior high and high schools for 11 years before moving into administrative roles including assistant principal and athletic director. Clough then moved to Arizona where he spent two years as a high school principal and two more as an academic chairman and assistant dean at Mohave Community College, prior to taking the Strasburg job.

The Strasburg-Franklin district, like Warren, is a member of the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools. Clough said he’s familiar with the issues Warren is facing and impressed with the staff the district has in place and the progress made during Gibbs’ eight-year tenure.

“It’s just a district I feel that’s primed and ready for academic excellence,” he said. “It’s just a great opportunity for whoever gets the job.”

Clough said he’s gotten the impression from speaking with Warren board members that they and the community have the best interests of students in mind.

“The open, honest dialogue with the board has really impressed me so far,” he said.

Strasburg-Franklin was rated excellent on its 2011-12 report card, Clough’s first year with the district.

Grant is finishing his third year as principal at New Lexington Elementary, a little more than 50 miles northwest of Vincent in Perry County. Before that, he was principal for four years at Claymont Intermediate School, where he’d taught since 1991.

One of the things that interested Grant in the Warren job was the challenge and opportunity of building a good portion of the administrative team, he said. In addition to looking for a superintendent, Warren has principal and assistant principal vacancies at the high school and Barlow-Vincent Elementary School. Gibbs said recently he’s posted the jobs but would like to include his successor in the interview process.

“I think it’s a unique situation that not many superintendents ever get,” Grant said.

Grant said Warren seems to be an “excellent school district” with a board that’s ready to move forward in a positive direction.

“I’m just excited and honored to be invited back,” he said.

New Lexington Elementary was rated in the continuous improvement category on its 2011-12 report card. Grant said the school was classified as effective the year before and multiple factors contributed to the lower rating on the latest report card. He’s optimistic that changes made in programming will move the school back up on this year’s card, he said.

Edwards, who could not be reached for comment, has spent the last two years as special education director of Clear Fork Valley Schools in Richland County. Prior to that, he spent two years as principal of East Clinton High School in Lees Creek, four years as a high school principal and special education director for Riverside Local Schools in DeGraff and two years as a middle school principal for Madison Plains Local Schools in London. He taught English, math, biology and health over 17 years before moving into the administrative positions.

Minutes from the Clear Fork Valley Local Board of Education meetings indicate Edwards submitted his resignation from that district earlier this year effective July 31, the end of his two-year contract.

A release from the Warren district issued Wednesday listed only Edwards and Jonathan Kuehnle, a grants administrator and special education director for the Pickaway County Educational Service Center and one of the other candidates interviewed this week, as invited to Saturday’s session. However, Brackenridge said Kuehnle withdrew his name from consideration and Clough and Grant were subsequently invited.

“I think the community needs to participate so they can see what we saw too,” Brackenridge said when asked why the board decided to bring in other candidates.

Eighteen people submitted their names when the job was posted, including Frontier Local Schools Superintendent Bruce Kidder. As he has when his name has come up in other superintendent searches, Kidder this week reiterated that he is looking at career options but is not unhappy at Frontier.

None of the other candidates were from the local area, and none applied from within the Warren district.