Springfield school district names new superintendent

Hill will oversee the district’s $125 million budget, 950 employees and more than 7,800 students when current Superintendent David Estrop retires at the end of the school year.

The board approved Thursday a four-year contract with Hill for an annual base salary of $152,500.

One priority for next year will be improving the district’s performance on the state report card. In 2014 Springfield met zero out of 24 performance indicators, but did earn an A in three out of four categories that measure students’ academic growth.

“It’s a tall task,” Hill said.

In his interviews with the board, he said a sense of urgency exists to move the needle.

“We have the facilities, I think we have the community support, I think we have the budget to really start to expand the initiatives that started under Dr. Estrop, and really start to see a result in meeting the indicators,” he said.

The focus to achieve that goal needs to be on early childhood education, Hill said.

“One of the initiatives that I foresee in Springfield is the potential for all-day, every day preschool with transportation provided, which is really something that is unheard of in this day and age,” he said.

Giving children that extra boost in preschool will ensure that each student is on level footing entering kindergarten, he said.

The board contract stipulates that Hill must move to the district, which he said is no problem since it’s a homecoming of sorts for his family.

“My wife was born and raised in Springfield … We were married in Springfield at St. Raphael’s,” Hill said. “This was a dream to come home.”

Their son, Jack, will be a first grader in the district in the fall and the couple’s younger son, Cooper, a preschooler.

School Board President Ed Leventhal said Hill received the most positive feedback from the community, administration and stakeholder groups he met with during finalist interviews earlier this month and said the board’s decision was unanimous.

The board was impressed with his experience, presentation and communication skills, he said.

They hope his connection to the community will mean a long tenure with the district, and Hill said he hopes to stay for some time.

“I can see myself finishing out my boys education here,” he said.

Hill is coming in as the district is well-positioned for success, Leventhal said, and he has an understanding of the need for continued improvement.

“He’s willing, and the board is empowering him to come in and take a fresh look,” Leventhal said.

Hill said his first year will be focused on creating a vision for the district’s future with the help of all stakeholders, which can then be used to examine current programs and use of resources.

One current initiative Hill is excited about is the waiver Springfield has applied for to be exempt from some standardized state testing.

“This waiver, if granted for Springfield, I think will give us the opportunity to actually create assessments that guide learning,” he said.

Horton Hobbs, vice president for economic development at the Chamber of Greater Springfield, attended the community sessions held with the finalists.

“All three would have been very good, but there was something about Mr. Hill that struck me. His passion,” Hobbs said. “He’d really thought through and done his homework about the community.”

The school district is an important community asset and partner, he said.

“The collaboration that Dr. Estrop and his team have brought to the community has been amazing,” Hobbs said.

Hill currently serves as superintendent at Firelands Local School District in Lorain County. He was previously principal of Olmsted Falls High School in Cuyahoga County.

His administrative experience also includes serving as the assistant principal for curriculum and instruction of Grove City High School in the South-Western City School District and assistant principal and dean of students at the Licking County Joint Vocational High School. He taught history at Dublin Scioto High School and government at Columbus Centennial High School.

The board liked Hill’s experience at rural, suburban and large urban districts, Leventhal said.

“The board did want someone with superintendent experience,” he said.

Hill earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Denison University in 1996, his master’s degree in educational administration from Ashland University in 2001, and his doctorate in educational leadership from Ashland University in 2008.

Hill was chosen from among 20 applicants. The board interviewed eight and then narrowed the field to three finalists in late February.

Mayor Warren Copeland said schools are vital to Springfield’s success.

“When we talk economic development … the key issue they raise is labor force,” he said.

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