LOWELL - Residents and workers in the Fort Frye Local school district met Monday with three finalists for the district's superintendent job.
Crooksville High School Principal Casey H. Coffey, Conneaut Area City Schools Superintendent Donald Kent Houston and Greenville City Schools Director of Curriculum Guy Parmigian were interviewed in executive session by the Fort Frye board of education earlier this month, along with two other candidates. They were invited back for a second round of closed-door interviews with the board Monday at Lowell Elementary School.
While one candidate was speaking with the board for about an hour, another met with about 15 staff members and the third fielded questions submitted by a handful of community members.
Fort Frye High School teacher and district resident John Bostic read questions submitted by four residents and a former resident married to a staff member to each candidate. Questions dealt with the candidates' perceived strengths, how they would deal with the district's financial issues and the school board and their views on consolidation of schools and school districts.
Meeting with the public first was Parmigian, 35, who joined the Greenville district as the assistant high school principal in 2006. He now serves as director of curriculum and career technology, essentially acting as the principal for the high school's career tech center, and said he'd like this process to be his last job interview.
"I do not see this place as a stepping stone," he said. "To really build progress, you need a lot of time. So my intent would be to be here for a really long time, if you guys will have me."
- Casey H. Coffey, principal, Crooksville High School.
- Donald Kent Houston, superintendent, Conneaut Area City Schools.
- Guy Parmigian, director of curriculum and career technology, Greenville City Schools.
Coffey said he viewed the position as a long-term job.
"If you're going to finish the drill, you're not going to come in as a superintendent for two or three years and get that done," he said.
Coffey is a McConnelsville native who has served as a middle school principal, assistant superintendent and football coach at various schools and is currently principal at Crooksville High School. He said he started working toward being a superintendent several years ago with a goal of getting back closer to his family.
Houston said he couldn't predict how long he'd be in the district, although he's healthy enough to work for a while, "Lord and board willing."
"If I'm lucky enough to get this job, I'm going to leave this place better than it was when I got here," he said.
Houston is in his fifth year as superintendent in the Conneaut district. He'd served three years as assistant high school principal and boys basketball coach when he was put in charge of the school's curriculum after three straight years on academic watch on the state report card.
The school implemented a process called assessment mapping and "we went from academic watch for three straight years to an excellent high school in nine months," he said.
After a year as principal of Geneva High School, Houston returned to Conneaut as superintendent. He said although he likes working in the district, he's ready for a new challenge and noted he's cut $3.2 million from that district's budget over the years, which has resulted in the loss of more than 30 teaching jobs and about 20 classified staff positions.
"It gets really tough when you're impacting your friends and neighbors and people you've known for so long," he said.
Asked about his vision for the district, Coffey said he wouldn't come in with preconceived notions about what to fix, but would assess staffing and building needs and figure out the community's goals for the district. He noted that schools are dealing with "austere times" and the district's projected carryover at the end of this year is just $144,000.
"It's very comparable to somebody that's on a fixed income," he said. "As far as new money's concerned, nobody's coming down here and handing us a big check."
The district has been working to further cut its spending, although a projected deficit was avoided by directing money originally intended for permanent improvements to the general fund.
Parmigian said the district needs to look at increasing revenue, but a levy wouldn't be his first choice.
"How do we do that? You keep students, you retain students, you attract students," he said.
Parmigian said he would work with the chamber of commerce to attract jobs to the area. He noted that Greenville is adding revenue by working with a company to create customized training programs for employers.
He said he would try to win back students who may have left for online schooling by contacting the families and asking what the district could do to meet their needs.