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Published: Wednesday, 3/14/2012

Rossford school board backs extension of school chief's contract

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Interim Superintendent Bill McFarland says he would be willing to stay as long as a year. Interim Superintendent Bill McFarland says he would be willing to stay as long as a year.
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Facing a time crunch to hire a new superintendent, several Rossford school board members said they supported extending interim superintendent Bill McFarland's contract for at least a year.

"The longer you can get him to stay, the better," James "Doug" Miller, the newly appointed school board member, said during a meeting last week.

Mr. McFarland said in an interview after the meeting that he would be willing to stay as long as a year, although he emphasized that no new contract has been signed.

"Rossford schools have been very good to me. … There's a lot of potential there. There's a lot of good things going on and there's a lot of issues to work on," said Mr. McFarland, 59, who was hired Sept. 6 to replace Susan Lang after she left for a job near Cincinnati.

"I can help them out. Changing midstream may be detrimental to them."

But he added, "I'm not going to overstay my welcome either."

His current contract, for which he is paid $73,600, expires July 31.

Mr. McFarland, who has spent more than 30 years in education, was superintendent of Eastwood Local Schools from 1998 to 2006 and was interim principal at McComb High School from 2006 to 2010.

Several school board members said they were confident Mr. McFarland could help the district navigate through upcoming budget cuts because he is willing to make hard decisions and has a strong grasp on the schools' finances. If a new superintendent were hired this year, it would take time for him or her to get up to speed.

The school district, like many others in northwest Ohio, is facing a significant loss of property taxes.

The district is looking to cut about $1.1 million from its annual budget by not filling retiring employees' positions and is considering cuts ranging from transportation to cafeteria operations to programs, said Treasurer James Rossler, Jr.

"We're looking at everything," Mr. Rossler said, adding that in April, the district might determine more details on where the cuts will come from.

As to the possibility of layoffs, "Could it happen? Yeah," he said. "But that's what we're trying to stay away from."

The irony of school officials talking about budget cuts in the same week that Rossford school voters approved a pair of levies was not lost on Mr. Rossler.

The school board's discussion of Mr. McFarland's contract came after it heard three pitches from consultants seeking a contract to search for a superintendent.

School officials originally planned to hire the next superintendent by Aug. 1, which meant the district would need to start the search soon, the consultants said.

"You're running out of time," consultant John Granger said. "It's getting late, but it's not too late."



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