With several large ongoing projects, including the proposed territory transfer with Newbury Local Schools and a potential bond issue for new construction and building renovations, the West Geauga Local School district is opting to make communication with parents, residents and stakeholders a priority.

At a special meeting last Friday, the Board of Education approved the transfer of West Geauga Middle School Principal Jim Kish into the newly created role of director of public relations and development effective Aug. 1. Board President Ben Kotowski and Vice President Bill Beers were absent from the morning meeting.

Superintendent Richard Markwardt said the new position was created to ensure the district keeps focused on communicating with parents, residents and other district stakeholders throughout a time of potential major changes. Mr. Kish will assist the central office with public relations, partnerships, development initiatives and community outreach, Dr. Markwardt said.

“What we’re trying to do at this point in time is to put everyone in the areas where we can most leverage their strengths, and there are a lot of projects going on right now that are critical in nature and quite frankly we need a little bit of assistance at the central office if we’re going to implement those projects at the degree that we would like to,” Dr. Markwardt said. “Jim Kish is going to be critical to us in that process.”

Mr. Kish will receive $100,251 in his new role and will enter the second year of a three-year contract in the fall. He said he is excited to increase the district’s community outreach including more of a web presence through increased social media engagement and the creation of video content.

“West Geauga has always been a wonderful place and I’ve spent the last 24 years here,” Mr. Kish said. “This role gives me the opportunity to showcase what we do and help with the transition with things like the Newbury consolidation, master planning and all the various district initiatives that are out there. I’m just excited to be out and about and to be the face of West Geauga Local Schools.”

The district currently engages in a contract with Karen Kalis of Blue Dingo Marketing at a rate of $2,000 per month for approximately 50 hours of work as a marketing strategist including weekly articles, website management, marketing materials and the production of the Wolverine Tracks magazine semiannually, according to the contract agreement approved by the board on Dec. 18, 2018. The district’s contract with Ms. Kalis expires Aug. 31, and Dr. Markwardt declined to comment if West G would renew her contract with the creation of Mr. Kish’s new position.

Due to Mr. Kish’s move from the middle school, two resulting administrative staff changes were approved Friday. West Geauga High School Assistant Principal Ron Dahlhofer will move to the position of middle school principal at an annual salary of $97,138, and middle school Assistant Principal Shawn Krippel will move to fill Mr. Dahlhofer’s position as high school assistant principal at an $81,549 annual salary. Mr. Dahlhofer is entering the second year of a three-year contract with the district, while Mr. Krippel will begin the first year of a three-year contract in the fall.

Dr. Markwardt noted that both moves are a sort of homecoming for the two administrators, as Mr. Dahlhofer spent nine years as a teacher and four years as assistant principal at the middle school and Mr. Krippel was a math teacher for 11 years at the high school.

“Ron has been successful in every professional assignment he has held. Therefore, I have no doubts that he will add that of WGMS Principal to the list,” Dr. Markwardt said in an email to parents and staff. “(Mr. Krippel) will be working with Kathleen Cooey to maintain the great strides achieved recently by our math department and to support building efforts related to student performance on the ACT and Advanced Placement exams. Shawn is well acquainted with the staff and students of the building; I know that he will be successful.”

In other business, the board approved the hiring of current wrestling coach Benjamin Stehura as athletic director at a $78,000 annual base salary and middle school and Lindsey Elementary School speech and language pathologist Molly Martin, receiving $46,515 annually.

West Geauga High Principal Jay Bishop introduced the board to Mr. Stehura, noting his previous role as Cleveland State University’s head wrestling coach for 10 years before taking the coaching position at West G last winter.

“For the most part, leading programs has been his life. He’s initiated youth programs, 501(c)(3) programs, athletic and wrestling development,” Mr. Bishop said. “I know that the parents, families and students that he’s worked with in this past year have really admired him and looked up to him as a wrestling coach, and we’re looking forward to having him at the high school in a new role, a bigger leadership role. I think he’s going to bring fantastic experience in leading the athletic department.”

Dr. Markwardt said while he would be comfortable with Mr. Stehura continuing as wrestling coach on top of his athletic director duties, the district is considering an option where a new wrestling coach would be hired.

Director of Pupil Personnel Amy Davis said Ms. Martin comes to the district after just completing a master’s program at Baldwin Wallace University.

“We really enjoyed meeting with her, and what really stood out to us largely was her compassion, clearly, her expertise,” Mrs. Davis said. “She really understood equity and she really understood the differences between an impairment and a disability, and I think she’s going to be very valuable in the process of auditing our services and moving forward in that direction.”

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for July 15 at 7 p.m. in the board office community room.

Tim Tedeschi covers the Solon and West Geauga Board of Education, as well as statewide education issues, sports and features. He is a lifelong diehard Cleveland Indians fan and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University.

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