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Published: Thursday, 8/9/2001

Perrysburg school district faces changes

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

To Sharon Zimmers' credit, it shouldn't be too difficult to find someone to replace her.

Perrysburg is known as a “lighthouse district,” a bright beacon that should attract excellent candidates during the search for a new superintendent, said Robert Pfefferle, the school system's interim superintendent.

Dr. Zimmers, who was Perrysburg's superintendent for six years, has taken a similar job in the Columbus suburb of Dublin. She leaves behind a strong school district and staff, friends say.

Although she will miss “the people” - the teachers, building administrators, students, parents, and others across the district - Dr. Zimmers said she feels “very, very good about the shape the district is in.”

Dr. Zimmers packed up her belongings last week and spent some time saying goodbye with a casual ice-cream party with staff members. On Wednesday and Thursday, she worked with Mr. Pfefferle as he began his duties. Then on Friday morning, she began her new job in Dublin.

Dublin, a community of about 31,000 people in the northwest area of metropolitan Columbus, is similar to Perrysburg. But Dublin is “growing much, much faster than here,” she said.

Voters in Dublin last November approved funding to build the district's 11th elementary school and third high school, Dr. Zimmers said.

Dr. Zimmers, who was hired as Perrysburg superintendent in 1995, has some expertise in dealing with enrollment growth, bond issues, and new buildings.

Under her watch, the district has built a new high school and an addition to Toth Elementary School. The high school is to open in early September.

Although the district was experiencing a boom in student population with facilities at capacity in the 1990s, growth has slowed. The growth had been about 3 percent a year, but last year there was “zero growth,” she said.

There shouldn't be a need for a new school - an elementary building - for at least five or six years, she said.

And there might not be a need for an operating levy this year, she said. The school board planned to place a levy on the May ballot, but voted later to remove the tax issue from the ballot.

“We have been very, very tight with the budget. We have been very frugal,” Dr. Zimmers said.

John Kevern, a member of the school board, agreed that the board might be able to hold off until next year with a levy request.

“Right now, we are trying not to have one this year,” he said. Board members are reviewing the district's finances to determine whether they can justify not going for a levy this year, he said.

Mr. Kevern applauded Dr. Zimmers for her fiscal responsibility.

Perrysburg is one of the best districts in the state in terms of “giving taxpayers something for their money,” he said.

Dr. Zimmers built “tremendous staff loyalty,” Mr. Kevern said. “I didn't think it was time for her to leave the district.”

She didn't go looking for the Dublin job, but the money was too good to turn down. In July the Dublin board approved a three-year contract for Dr. Zimmers with a starting annual salary of $133,000. She had been earning $101,820 a year at Perrysburg.&tab;

Dr. Zimmers said she looks forward to the challenge of her new job, and says the timing was right, too. Her daughter Stefanie is heading off to college and her husband Craig recently retired.

At age 53, she is in “prime time,” she said. “I'm still high energy.”

Applications for the Perrysburg superintendent job will be accepted until Aug. 31, Mr. Kevern said.

The Perrysburg board is working with the Ohio School Boards Association in the search for a superintendent.

Mr. Pfefferle was superintendent of Oregon schools for 15 years. He resigned from that position in 1999.

Most recently, he has been a part-time administrative consultant for the Lucas County Educational Service Center.

On his first day as Perrysburg superintendent last week, Mr. Pfefferle was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but he said that Dr. Zimmers was “very helpful.”

“It's such an outstanding school district and community,” he said. “I really consider it a privilege to help out for a few months,” he said.

But he said he is not interested in staying long term. He has a three-month contract that can be extended as needed.Mr. Pfefferle, who described Dr. Zimmers as one of his “all-time favorite administrators,” said that Perrysburg is such a premier district that it “will attract some quality people, hopefully like her,” and hopefully, the new superintendent and the district “will move on forward.”


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