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Published: Thursday, 1/13/2005

Bedford: White gets glowing grades as acting superintendent

Jon White Jon White

TEMPERANCE - Jon White has spent the last eight months as the acting superintendent of Bedford Public Schools - but the term "acting" seems to be just a formality.

Mr. White was handed a glowing evaluation from the seven board members last week, who gave him an effective approval rating of 97 percent in seven different "critical job elements" of the position he took over May 6.

And in that time, board members haven't solicited any outside help to search for a permanent replacement for former district superintendent Jim Goebel, whose contract to lead Bedford Public Schools was not renewed last year.

By contrast, an earlier board spent more than $100,000 when it removed former superintendent Bill Hall, on extra salaries and a nationwide search for a replacement.

"I think the evaluation that you saw is a testament to the dedication that [Mr. White] has displayed all year," board president Dave Taylor said.

Mr. White, 58, who is being paid $106,602 under the one-year term of his contract, was judged on educational leadership, business and finance, his relations with board members, schools and community relations, staff and personnel relations, personal qualities, and goal attainment.

Board members chose one of four levels to judge Mr. White's performance in each category. Overall, 39 percent of the responses judged him as "excellent," 58 percent judged "satisfactory," and 3 percent judged "needs improvement." None of the responses were marked "unsatisfactory."

Board member Laura Senters said she thinks Mr. White has done an excellent job since taking over for Mr. Goebel, despite sometimes difficult circumstances.

"With the challenges he's had to face so far, I think he's done a good job. He's handled it all well, he works well with staff, and he radiates a positive attitude. The whole mood of the district has been uplifted," Mrs. Senters said.

And Bedford continues to have difficulties. Declining enrollment has resulted in lost revenues from the state of $261,000, and the district will withdraw $1.44 million from its rainy day fund to meet its expenses this year - an increase of $470,000 from budget projections a year ago, said Ted Magrum, Bedford's assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

Mr. Magrum has projected that the district will require additional budget cuts of at least $1.3 million in each of the next two years, meaning the district's operating budget in the 2006-07 school year will be $7.6 million less than it was in 2002-03. During that same period, it will have depleted its rainy day fund to the .une of almost $4 million.

"At this point, there's really nothing much left to cut that wouldn't directly affect the curriculum," Mr. Magrum said.

Even so, Mr. White said he has enjoyed his temporary position, and wouldn't mind removing the modifier from his title.

"I've enjoyed my eight months. I've enjoyed myself. I feel we are developing a cohesive team, and if offered, I'd be interested in accepting the position," Mr. White said.

"I had the opportunity to meet with each [board] member individually," Mr. White said of the evaluations, though he cautioned there was still plenty of work to be done. "This doesn't mean anything unless we work on it and we work to improve it. We have a great [administrative] team, and we're willing to work together."

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