The next Lorain Schools superintendent is expected to be chosen by Board of Education members Tuesday although board members say they won’t identify the superintendent until a contract is approved.
The three finalists all are superintendents or have been.
Deborah Piotrowski has been Xenia Schools superintendent since 2010.
Stephen Stohla served as superintendent of Alliance Schools and Brookfield Schools before retiring in 2009.
Thomas Tucker has been Sandusky Schools superintendent since 2010.
While Stohla, 64, and Tucker, 56, grew up in Lorain, Piotrowski, who wouldn’t give her age, grew up in Toledo. Piotrowski, who said she grew up poor and would use her story to try to inspire students if hired, worked her way up from walking railroad track, checking cars to a management position at Conrail where she worked for 15 years.
Piotrowski began her education career as a Toledo Schools teacher and had stints as a Washington Schools elementary school principal and Millcreek West Schools superintendent before coming to Xenia. She has made $8.6 million in cuts since her hiring.
“I’ve never had a superintendent who had to come in and do what she’s done,” said Xenia Board of Education President William Spahr who has worked with four superintendents since joining the board in 1994. “We hired her to come in and do one particular thing. And that is to make whatever cuts are necessary to keep our school system afloat.”
Piotrowksi was forced to eliminate 76 positions and oversaw the privatization of bussing and custodial work, Spahr said. Xenia voters rejected a levy in November, but the district is seeking an earned income tax levy next month.
Spahr praised Piotrowski’s business background and curriculum experience.
“She’s tough. She’s gotten the job done,” he said. “Nobody’s going to be a superintendent and be the most popular person in town unless you don’t ask for a levy for the next 10 years and you make sure your football coach wins all (his) games.”
Piotrowski recalled being discouraged from going to college by a guidance counselor while Stohla, who said he enjoyed playing nose tackle at Admiral King High School more than attending classes, wasn’t planning on college. Stohla said a summer job at a steel plant changed his mind.
Besides being a football coach, teacher and principal, Stohla spent 32 years in the Army National Guard and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. While an administrative officer with the Army’s school system, he said he helped oversee 1.5 million to 2 million students and a $1 billion budget.
Alliance had about 3,300 students and Brookfield had 1,200 students when Stohla was superintendent, far less than Lorain’s 7,500, but Stohla said that would help rather than hinder him if he were hired.
“The smaller a school (district) is the more a superintendent does and the less help you have,” Stohla said. “I joke about it that the only thing I didn’t do (in Brookfield) is change the oil on the buses. It was the most intense job I ever had.”
Stohla, who said he’s coming out of retirement because Lorain Schools helped make him a better person, said he got a $7.4 million bond issue for a new building passed in his first year in Brookfield and would go door to door lobbying for a levy in Lorain if hired. Voters in Lorain haven’t passed a new levy since 1992.
Stohla’s down to earth style served him well in Alliance, said former Alliance Board of Education member Doug Shields.
“He can talk to most anybody,” Shields said. “That helps when you’re trying to pass a levy. You’ve got to not only talk to the people that support you, but you’ve got to get the other people on your side also.”
Tucker has done an admirable job of community outreach, according to Richard Koonce, a Sandusky Schools Board of Education member. Tucker worked with the Sandusky branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which hosted a series of parental engagement meetings and was part of annual education summits in 2010 and last year.
Because it’s his hometown, Koonce said Tucker — who worked for Lorain Schools for 27 years — would likely bring a lot of passion to the job if hired.
“I couldn’t see why he wouldn’t do it there,” Koonce said. “He showed it here.”
Tucker who had to reduce staff by 20 percent after taking over in Sandusky and merged the junior high schools into the high school due to shrinking enrollment, wouldn’t say if his familiarity with Lorain and the school district would give him an advantage if hired. However, Tucker did say that the two years he spent as assistant superintendent in Sandusky gave him the necessary time to learn about the community and school district to be effective.
“In Lorain, when I left, I knew it,” Tucker said. “When I came here, I had to learn it.”
- Xenia Schools super-intendent since 2010
- Annual salary: $125,000
- Previous positions include: Millcreek West superintendent, 2005-10; Wernert Elementary School principal in Washington Schools, 2001-05; Washington Schools teacher, 1999-2000; Toledo Schools teacher, 1994-2000; Conrail employee, 1976-1991
- Education: doctorate of education, master of education, bachelor of education
- Age: “Old enough to know better.”
- Personal: Worked her way up from walking track at Conrail to an administrative job, before leaving to become a teacher after having her last child.
- Retired Brookfield Schools superintendent, 2007-09
- Annual salary: $75,000 to $80,000
- Previous positions include Alliance Schools super-intendent, 2004-07; Ravenna High School principal, 2000-2004
- Education: master’s degree in educational admin-istration, bachelor’s degree in liberal arts
- Age: 64
- Personal: A Lorain native, Stohla graduated from the former Admiral King High School in 1966 where he played football. Spent 32 years in the Army National Guard, including 12 years of active duty, and retired as a colonel.
- Sandusky Schools superintendent since 2010
- Annual salary: $118,000
- Previous positions include: Lorain Schools human resource director, 2007-08; former Admiral King High School principal, 2004-07; band and orchestra director, 1980-2003
- Education: master of education, bachelor of music-music education
- Age: 56
- Personal: A Lorain native, Tucker graduated from Lorain High School in 1974 and spent 28 years working for Lorain Schools.
View the finalists’ resumes:
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.