Transparency, adapting to the times, and rebuilding lost trust were shared ideals touched upon by three finalists for the job of Wellington Schools superintendent.
The candidates shared their views Tuesday at a public forum at the Patricia Lindley Center.
About 75 people attended the three-hour event, which gave each finalist an hour to make their case to be the next head of the school district.
Those finalists are William Greene, assistant superintendent of business services at North Ridgeville Schools; Timothy Simpson, McCormick Middle School principal in Wellington from 2009 to 2015 and current assistant principal at Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Edward Weber, principal of the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine.
Weber went before the crowd first and emphasized the need to eliminate roadblocks students encounter when trying to take elective classes, saying such practices make it harder for kids to find their passions.
“It wouldn’t be my plan in Wellington, it would be our plan,” he said. “We changed our curriculum in Cleveland to empower the students and let them discover what drives them.”
He said Wellington needs to consider new and unconventional teaching methods. Sophomores at his Cleveland school take courses specifically on grant-writing and have written actual grant applications for community causes as part of their finals.
“Seven of those applications were submitted and five ended up being funded,” he said. “One of them started a program called Protecting Our Youth in Cleveland. It aims to build better relations between African American youths and the police.”
Second on the agenda was Greene, who began by highlighting his years growing up in the Kipton and Firelands areas as well as showing goats regularly at the Lorain County Fair.
After moving up through the teaching and administrative ranks in both Lorain and North Ridgeville, Greene said serving as interim superintendent in North Ridgeville during the summer of 2015 got him hooked on the idea of becoming the permanent leader of a district.
“This is the top of the mountain for me,” he said. “By that, I mean being a part of small-town America and being a superintendent.”
He said giving younger gifted students earlier access to upper-grade material would be a huge step toward improving Wellington’s Ohio Report Card grades.
“Offering algebra in eighth grade would add bonus points to our performance index,” he said. “Letting sixth-graders take seventh grade math would do the same thing. We have to understand that learning is a collaborative effort and the days of five rows of desks is on its way out.”
Simpson went on last, saying his familiarity with the community and desire to be in Wellington for the long term is second to none.
“This place is my why, my reason for getting out of bed,” he said. “I’ve missed this community greatly while I’ve been away. My purpose is here.”
He said the Wellington Schools have made parents feel alienated and that he felt that way before leaving to help care for his mother-in-law in Oklahoma.
“We need to make sure we’re communicating to make sure everyone knows how and why decisions are made,” he said. “You can never communicate enough. Every member of this district needs to have an open door at all times.”
A petition in support of Simpson’s candidacy was started in October by Mishelle Brinker, whose son attends the Wellington Schools. It had garnered more than 100 signatures as of Tuesday.
“I decided to start it because my son had Mr. Simpson as a principal at the old McCormick,” said Brinker. “My son, myself, and other parents always had the utmost respect for Mr. Simpson. The students respected and looked up to him. I thought his philosophies were very strong. He worked to obtain his superintendent’s license since leaving Wellington and has a strong plan for the district.”
She feels he can break the trend of administrators leaving Wellington after short periods of time.
“He left on a positive note and for personal family reasons,” she said. “He wants to be a part of our district and isn’t part of a revolving door. This is a long-term plan.”
Bob Georgevich signed the petition and likened the Wellington Schools’ turnover at the top to that of the Cleveland Browns’ coaching carousel.
“I moved to Wellington in 1999 right when the Browns came back and it’s been a very strong correlation,” he said. “The Browns have a new coach and general manager every few years and it doesn’t help them stability-wise. You can say the exact same thing about our schools. We’re getting new administrators and coaches all the time, and it has the same effect.”
He added that Wellington is too often used as a stepping stone or a way for someone to pad their resume.
“I can’t fault someone for making a decision that’s best for them personally,” he said. “But ultimately, Tim Simpson wants to be here for an extended period of time. That, combined with the respect he already has among students, is why I want him as my superintendent.”
All three candidates specifically talked about their desire to make Wellington a long-term job and agreed that the frequent turnover in the district has hurt functionality.
They also shared sentiments regarding the need to continue monitoring the district’s financial difficulties and to explore new avenues for professional development among Wellington’s teachers.
The board of education has called for a special executive session on Dec. 6 but no timetable has been set to choose the new district head.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.