LORAIN — From administrator, band director, principal, teacher’s union negotiator and human resources director, Tom Tucker did nearly everything in his 28 years at Lorain Schools but lead the district. The job is now his if he wants it.
“It’s a challenge,” Tucker said Thursday after Board of Education member Jim Smith revealed that board members selected Tucker over finalist Stephen Stohla. “It’s always nice to come home, as they say, and help out your hometown.”
Board members selected Tucker on Tuesday in a closed-door meeting known as executive session, but board President Tim Williams wouldn’t reveal the choice, saying he wanted to wait until a contract was negotiated. However, Smith said the choice had become common knowledge at the Charleston Administration Center and the public had a right to know. If Tucker agrees to a contract, board members plan to approve his hiring at their July 26 meeting.
Tucker worked for Lorain in 1980 until 2008 before leaving to become Sandusky Schools assistant superintendent. He was promoted to superintendent in 2010.
Smith said Tucker’s Lorain experience should allow him to hit the ground running, a crucial factor in the poverty-stricken district, which has lost 3,000 students in the last decade and is on the brink of insolvency and a state takeover.
“That was his only edge over Stohla,” Smith said. “He knows the territory and he’s got the background.”
Tucker’s familiarity with Lorain was evident at a Tuesday forum with community leaders prior to interviewing with board members.
“People were talking to him by his first name and I didn’t even know who he was talking to,” said Stohla, a former superintendent of Alliance Schools and Brookfield Schools who grew up in Lorain and wanted to come out of retirement to lead the district. “But that’s OK. I’m glad they have somebody from Lorain, If I had to be beat out by somebody, I’m glad it was another hometown kid.”
Excluding interim Superintendent Ed Branham, Tucker will be the first Lorain Schools superintendent to have attended Lorain Schools. Most participants at a public forum held last month by the Superintendent Search Committee said they preferred a local candidate.
Former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson, an out-of-towner whose various attempts at seeking employment in other districts and $235,000 annual salary caused community resentment before her September departure, was seen as a carpetbagger by critics. Tucker — who will be offered between $115,000 and $150,000 and has said he would like to retire in Lorain — was well-received at the Tuesday forum.
“He recognizes that some of our students, being an urban school district, may need a little more help in getting their education,” said forum participant Rhoda Lee, the education chairwoman of the Lorain branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “I think he will do a lot in terms of bringing new ideas.”
Lee, who is also Lorain County Community Action Agency board member involved with the Head Start program for disadvantaged children, said she has known Tucker for nearly 25 years. As a member of the NAACP, Lee said she worked with Tucker on encouraging minority students to participate in the arts when he was band director and on increasing minority teachers while he was human resources director.
Lee is hopeful voters will support Tucker by passing a levy in November something Tucker called “imperative.”
Tucker, 56, described his approach as “direct” “transparent” and “no-nonsense.” While a hard worker, Tucker said he realizes that if he takes over in Lorain he can’t go it alone.
“It has to be a group of people including the community,” he said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.