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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

Lake District's new superintendent takes long-term development view

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jim Witt, the recently hired superintendent, said the suburban school district must look past short-term fixes and focus on developing a long-range plan toward improving the education of its 1,600 students.
Jim Witt, the recently hired superintendent, said the suburban school district must look past short-term fixes and focus on developing a long-range plan toward improving the education of its 1,600 students.
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Years of levy failures and financial neglect have taken their toll on the Lake Local School District.

But a new superintendent is ready to rejuvenate the Wood County school district

Jim Witt, the recently hired superintendent, said the suburban school district must look past short-term fixes and focus on developing a long-range plan toward improving the education of its 1,600 students.

"We need to give our kids the knowledge they need to be competitive," Mr. Witt said in an interview at the century-old administration building in Millbury.

Lake finally broke its string of bad luck with levies on Aug. 8 when voters approved a five-year, 6.75 mill tax levy that will generate $1.5 million a year.

The fate of timing, however, means the school district must return to voters in November with a request to renew a 1.4 mill property tax.

The tax, which collects $316,000 a year, would last an-other five years. Voters last renewed it by a slight margin.

"It is important to note that it's a renewal. We will collect no [new money] from our taxpayers," he said.

Approval of the August tax means Lake can look at long-range issues instead of relying on what Mr. Witt admits has been the Band-Aid approval of the past.

The goal, he said, is whether the money that will be spent will benefit the students.

"I want our kids and parents to be proud to be part of the school district," he said.

Under former Superintendent Paul Orshoski, Ohio rated the district effective, the second-highest ranking the Ohio Department of Education awards. Last year the high school graduated 91 percent of its seniors.

Mr. Witt said he wants to continue to build on that success.

There are also safety issues that must be dealt with, primarily upgrading the bus fleet.

Moving the high school office to a more accessible location where administrators would have a view of the front doors is also important, he said.

The administration offices would be moved to the high school building to make the superintendent and his staff more accessible to students and teachers alike.

The high school library, closed in a cost-cutting measure, should be reopened, he said.

"I want our school buildings to be vibrant centers of activities," he said,

Technology, such as computers and software, and all-day kindergarten, must also be closely examined, he said.

"There are multiple areas we want to look at," he said.

Mr. Witt, who was hired in July from among 18 applicants, returned to Lake after serving a year at Sylvania's Northview High School as athletic director and summer school director.

His administrative career at Lake began in 1998 as an assistant high school principal, junior high principal, and ended in 2005 as high school principal.

"At that time [Sylvania] looked like a new challenging opportunity that had presented itself," he said.

The father of boys ages 8, 10, and 13, kept his home in the local district while working in Sylvania.

His decision to keep his residence where he returned as superintendent may have helped the community accept his new role, Mr. Witt said.

The decision to return was easy, and he has a ready answer for those who question why he left a larger school district for a smaller, financially troubled suburban school, he said.

"Have you ever met our staff, and have you ever met our kids?" he said.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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