May 15, 2023 - Education

School superintendent turnover surges locally

Illustration of a chalkboard with a waving hand emoji drawn on it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A nationwide churn of K-12 superintendents is being felt in Ohio, with three of the state's five largest school districts cementing changes this month due to retirements.

Why it matters: Following years of pandemic disruptions, stable leadership is essential to helping students recover and stay on track.

Zoom in: By next school year, 13 of 19 Columbus-area districts, or 68%, will have changed superintendents since 2020, per our analysis.

The big picture: Nationwide, half of the nation's 500 largest school districts had a disruption or change in leadership between March 1, 2020, and September 1, 2022, per a study by Rhode Island consulting firm ILO Group.

  • That's a 46% increase from the two prior years, before the stressors of COVID and culture wars.
  • Plus: Many baby boomer superintendents are reaching retirement age.
Recent superintendent changes in Columbus-area school districts
Note: Olentangy, which is north of the map boundaries, isn’t labeled. Data: Axios research; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

State of play: Olentangy, the area's biggest suburban district, announced over the weekend that chief operations officer Todd Meyer will be its next superintendent.

Meanwhile, Columbus City Schools (CCS) will conduct final interviews this week with three finalists: Brian McDonald, of Pasadena, California; George (Eric) Thomas, of Minneapolis; and interim superintendent Angela Chapman.

  • Board meetings are scheduled for 4pm Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

Between the lines: Finding school leaders is costly, with districts often spending tens of thousands of public dollars — in Columbus' case, it could be as much as $250,000.

Of note: CCS hired local law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister to be the intermediary between a search firm and a communications firm. That means all documents related to its superintendent search, including a list of applicants, are shielded from public records law due to attorney-client privilege, the district says.

What we're watching: The CCS school board "anticipates making a decision" this week, a spokesperson tells Axios.

  • Westerville is in the early stages of a search and is expected to announce its new superintendent on Aug. 1.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to say the Columbus Board of Education will meet Tuesday, in addition to Monday and Friday.


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