The Oregon school board on Thursday approved the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Michael Zalar, who is leaving to take the position of superintendent of the North Olmsted City Schools District in North Olmsted Ohio.
Zalar became superintendent of the Oregon City Schools District in 2008. Previously, he was principal of Clay High School for five years.
The North Olmsted school board on Wednesday approved a three year contract with Zalar, effective Aug. 1. He will receive an annual salary of $132,500 in his new job. In Oregon, his annual salary was $119,000.
School board member Jeff Ziviski said after the meeting that the board will hold a community forum at the Clay High School library at 7 p.m. on June 3 to discuss filling the superintendent position.
“We want to get the public’s input, before we start looking at resumes and interviewing candidates, on what qualities they want to see in a new superintendent,” said Ziviski.
The North Olmsted City Schools District has an enrollment of 4,100 students compared to 3,800 students in Oregon. North Olmsted has four primary schools, three intermediate schools, one middle school and one high school. Oregon currently has three elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. The population of North Olmsted, according to the 2010 Census, is 32,178, compared to 20,291 in Oregon.
Oregon school board president P.J. Kapfhammer, who was elected to the board in 2011 following a heated campaign that was critical of Zalar and the school board, told The Press he was not surprised to learn of the resignation.
“He has been here for five years, and that’s about average for a superintendent in the district,” said Kapfhammer. “He found a district he will be comfortable in and I am excited about the possibilities for Oregon. I believe we are going to hire the best superintendent. It always helps to have fresh eyes and it will be an exciting time for us. He made a lot of hard decisions because of the cuts in funding from the state and he helped us survive. He will do well wherever he goes.”
Ziviski, who was elected to the board in 2011 on a platform of transparency and change in the district, also wished Zalar well.
“It’s a positive situation for all parties involved,” said Ziviski. “He will be able to take all the experience he has gathered in the Oregon school system as a principal and superintendent and apply it to his new district. For our school system, this is also a great opportunity to bring in a new leader with a different perspective.”
Before being elected, Kapfhammer and Ziviski had been critical of the school board for approving pay raises of 12 administrators, including Zalar, who saw his salary soar from $119,094 to $130,220 per year at a time when the district was financially strapped. The raises touched off a firestorm of controversy in the community, particularly after the board had eliminated busing for Clay High School students. Comments from a community survey of the district reported in The Press the following year showed how the raises had taken a toll on the level of trust between the public and school officials.
Zalar returned the $11,000 pay hike last July.
“I take responsibility for the raise I received at a time when other cuts were being made and I apologize for that. I pledge to not let that happen again,” Zalar had said at the time.
“He and I had some ugly times,” Kapfhammer said about Zalar. “We do not agree on a lot of things. In the end, he did what he did for the district. He is a good guy who was in a bad situation.”
John Lasko, president of North Olmsted’s school board, said Zalar was one of 28 candidates who applied for the superintendent’s position, left vacant for a year following the retirement of Dr. Cheryl Dubski, the district’s popular superintendent. Zalar was then one of three finalists considered for the job.
Zalar did well during the interview process, according to Lasko..
“Resumes get your foot in the door. That’s all it does. But there’s no substitute for the interview, the face to face contact. That’s where you sink or swim. That’s where Dr. Zalar truly rose to the top of the class,” said Lasko.