Despite coronavirus job pressures, no uptick yet on school superintendent turnover

Michael D. Clark, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
·3 min read

Apr. 11—Despite a global pandemic forcing major changes throughout area schools, public school district leadership appears to be holding steady so far.

Lebanon Schools are searching for a new superintendent, and despite this week's announcement of Kings Schools losing its superintendent — and the near-departure of Mason Schools Superintendent Jonathan Cooper — the ranks of Butler and Warren County school leaders appears solid going into next school year.

That's largely the case across Ohio's 613 public school systems, said officials with Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA).

"What you're seeing in southwest Ohio is not unusual," said Kevin Miller, director of governmental relations for BASA. "At this time, we are not seeing an exponential increase in open superintendent positions."

"Dealing with pandemic-related issues has been an incredible challenge for school superintendents across the state. They have made decisions in the best interests of their students and the communities they serve. But the stress of addressing daily problems that have never been encountered before and making decisions that will most certainly be challenged by those who are not in a position to understand and know all the facts has been incredibly stressful," said Miller.

Traditionally late winter and early spring comprise the time windows for superintendents to announce their departures, timing picked to allow school boards time to search for a replacement to come onboard by Aug. 1.

Mason's Cooper, who applied for a superintendent's position in Colorado and advanced to be one of three finalists before withdrawing his name Thursday evening, said his move was only exploratory.

"This was an opportunity that I didn't seek, but felt like was something I needed to explore if I was to remain true to the very advice I always tell young leaders and my own kids — which is to take risks and be vulnerable," wrote Cooper in his statement regarding his withdrawal.

Though he was impressed with prospects of the new job, he said "still, there's no place I'd rather be than Mason."

Kings Superintendent Tim Ackermann, who will finish out the school year, made no mention of the extraordinary pressures brought on in dealing with the pandemic in explaining his departure for an assistant superintendent's position with the Hamilton County Educational Services Center.

Neither did former Lebanon Superintendent Todd Yohey in his November resignation announcement of his departure at the end of 2020.

But just a few years ago there was a historic turnover of superintendents in Butler and Warren County that saw an extraordinarily high number leave their jobs.

A 2017 Journal-News analysis showed of 22 public and private school districts — including the Cincinnati Archdiocese schools and county career schools — in the two counties, 14 have hired new superintendents since 2015.

In Butler County, nine of its 12 school systems at that time had new district leaders.

In Warren County, five of its 10 school systems had seen new leadership since 2015.

"It is cyclical that certain areas of the state will see more superintendent openings at a given time than other areas," said Miller.