Fort Frye BOE explores options for superintendent

BEVERLY – The Fort Frye Local Board of Education met for more than two-and-a-half hours in closed, executive session Thursday to discuss the potential departure of Superintendent Tom Gibbs.

Gibbs, who also serves as superintendent of Warren Local Schools, has said he’s spoken with the Athens City school district about taking a job there but no formal action has been taken. Anticipating his possible resignation, the Warren board of education held a special meeting Wednesday and approved a condensed superintendent search timeline if he does in fact leave.

The Fort Frye board took no action after exiting the executive session around 8:40 p.m. Thursday, board President Johnna Zalmanek said. They voted to move to the closed format to discuss the employment of a superintendent one minute into the 6 p.m. meeting at Beverly-Center Elementary.

Contacted after the meeting, board Vice President Charlie Schilling said he wasn’t sure what the board’s next step would be. He said it seems unlikely they would pursue sharing another superintendent with Warren, simply because he’s not sure any potential candidates would be interested in pulling double duty.

“I think our only option (is) to get a superintendent for just Fort Frye right now,” Schilling said.

If the board conducts a superintendent search, it would be the third in the last three years. Following the departure of Superintendent Matt Dill in 2010, the board conducted a search in 2011 but did not select any of the candidates. Another search in 2012 ended with the top choice of the board and community and staff members withdrawing and two other finalists being rejected.

A week later, the board voted to hire Gibbs and share his services with Warren, where he’d been superintendent for seven years. Earlier this year, he signed new five-year contracts with both districts, but, like many such contracts, there is no penalty for leaving before it’s up.

Prior to and after Dill’s tenure, Dora Jean Bumgarner served as Fort Frye’s interim superintendent. Schilling said he’s not sure whether the board would consider another interim arrangement.

Lower Salem resident Rodney West was the only member of the public to attend Thursday’s meeting. He said he’s been pleased with the work Gibbs has done over the last year.

“He’s going to be missed,” West said.