The unexpected departure of Dennis Mock as Wellington Schools superintendent did not go without some impassioned responses from the community.
He spoke to the Enterprise following his final day in the village to reflect on both the positive steps forward and the difficulties he encountered during his tenure.
“I think the best thing we accomplished was working out three-year agreements with both of our unions,” said Mock. “Those deals will really stabilize the district for that time period. We also improved the morale to get past all of the cuts from last year. Morale was pretty low. Then there’s these darn bleachers. I wish I could’ve assisted more in moving forward with those.”
The Dukes stadium bleachers were demolished Aug. 8 after months of speculation over the structure’s future.
Initial plans called to replace the seating with donated bleachers from North Olmsted, but those plans fell through when lead paint was discovered on the support structure. Despite an $85,000 proposal to strip the paint and refurbish, it did not make financial senses once insurance costs were factored in.
Now school district treasurer Tina Gabler estimates the cost of the new bleacher structure at around $150,000.
Mock also spoke of the challenges that face a rural school district when compared to urban and suburban areas with similar enrollment numbers.
“A big difference is the financial revenue that comes into the district from the state, which is lower than in a similarly populated urban area,” he said. “The businesses aren’t as large so the tax base is lower. You have to depend on the community more for support and it seems like you’re always going back to the well with some sort of levy or proposal to keep the district fluid.”
When it comes to Wellington’s struggle with enrollment, Mock says it’s a problem most smaller districts are facing at the moment.
“What’s going to affect Wellington the most is (the) JVS opening its doors to freshmen,” he said. “It’s going to challenge class size and the operations of all districts in Lorain County. They have always taken freshmen who attend special education classes but now they’re opening it up to everyone else.”
Eighteen freshman have shown interest in attending the JVS and 10 have signed up this year, he said. That amounts to about a $55,000 hit which could add up to a quarter million over a five-year period.
He also reiterated that his leaving Wellington was not a preconceived maneuver, but rather a matter of convenience and proximity to home and family in Huron.
“My leaving was prompted due to the vicinity of this opening,” he said. “If I wanted another job I would’ve started looking last April or May when there were a lot of jobs open. At that time, though, I thought I was staying in Wellington. With this opening in Margaretta, I just couldn’t overlook it because it’s so close to home.”
His departure added to the high turnover rate of Wellington administrative positions in the past decade. Mock said the strenuous nature of small district finances can sometimes add to that trend.
“I didn’t know my predecessors. I don’t know the orders they had for moving on,” he said. “When you get in the situations, though, where funding and expenditures are higher than revenue, it makes for a tough job. With the new middle school, performing arts center, and new contracts that have been negotiated, good strides were made this year.”
Mock sees Wellington’s current group of principals as a good foundation for the district to build upon going forward.
“Right now there are some solid administrators in Wellington,” he said. “With Tina Drake, Paul Holland, and Craig Housum there’s some continuity there working with the staff. There’s always going to be turnover with the board due to term limits. Every four years you can end up with one, two, or three new board members. You hope there not coming on the board with agendas and can work with the plan and vision the prior board has set.”
He considers his successor, Tom Tucker, to be a good fit for the ongoing challenges in the district.
“If everyone continues to stay focused and work together, the district is off to a great start,” he said. “I know Tom Tucker through meetings from his time in Sandusky and Lorain and he definitely has the experience and expertise to make that happen.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
File photo Dennis Mock served just over one year as Wellington School’s superintended before accepting the same position in Margaretta in early August.