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The Press Newspaper

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Dr. Mike Zalar, superintendent of Oregon City Schools District, has applied for the position of superintendent for the Gahanna-Jefferson Schools District, in Gahanna, Ohio, near Columbus.

The Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, according to the district’s website, “is seeking an experienced administrator who embraces the challenge of leading an already excellent district to the next level while working collaboratively with the board, the community, the staff and students.”

In a letter to Al Meloy, a search consultant for the district, Zalar noted his education, experience and qualifications.

“I am well aware of the leadership challenges that are inherent to improving academic performance in a large school district,” stated Zalar.

He also said he has developed a “team concept” and “systems thinking” approach to organizational management that has facilitated the development of leadership at all levels of the schools’ operation.

“I am confident that I can make a positive contribution to the continued success and overall progress of the Gahanna-Jefferson School District,” stated Zalar.

Zalar was principal of Clay High School for six years before he was hired as superintendent of the district in 2008.

“The district’s financial status has improved significantly during my tenure as superintendent,” states Zalar on the online application. The loss of revenue in the district, he added, caused the district to reduce staff and compensation with all employee classifications.

“Since becoming superintendent, our district has successfully passed a 5.9 - mill permanent improvement renewal levy; developed a new strategic plan; and reduced our operating budget $10 million,” Zalar states in his application. “I also helped coordinate the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) for our district and conducted negotiations of new contracts with both the certificated and classified unions. Presently, I have initiated an aggressive public engagement campaign designed to solicit citizen input and build community support concerning the future direction of the school district.”

The most significant challenges facing the Gahanna-Jefferson Schools District in the next three years, according to the website, will be to improve district performance while addressing the fiscal realities associated with school funding.

The district’s financial situation has some similarities to the Oregon City Schools District.

The Gahanna-Jefferson Schools District “is facing a significant financial challenge,” states the application. “The Five Year Forecast indicates that the district will begin deficit spending in FY14. Therefore, in the near future, the district will either have to pass a new operating levy or further reduce the budget.”

The Gahanna-Jefferson Schools District has enacted cost saving measures, including salary and wage freezes, staff reductions and other budget cuts – while maintaining an Excellent rated designation, according to the application.

“In addition, property taxes are low relative to the surrounding area. The challenge will be to continue to provide an outstanding educational value in an era of ever diminishing resources. This will only be possible by getting the staff and community to work together for the betterment of children. This is the primary function of leadership,” states the application.

Mark White, superintendent of the Gahanna-Jefferson Schools District since 2010, is resigning on July 31 to pursue professional opportunities and to spend more time with his family, according to the district’s website.

Zalar is among six candidates who are vying for the superintendent position. They are:

• Robert Britton, superintendent of Ridgedale Local Schools;

• James Grube, superintendent of Buckeye Valley Local Schools;

• Francis Robert Scruci, superintendent of Burke County Public Schools in North Carolina;

• John Kellogg, assistant superintendent of curriculum of South-Western City Schools;

• George Joseph, executive director of administrative services for the Worthington School District.

Zalar could not be reached for comment.

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