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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Gernot wins praise, ends service on Sylvania school board

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When George Gernot III served his final day on the Sylvania school board last week, he left behind a drastically different board than the one he joined more than eight years ago.

Back then, dissension ran so deeply that school board members could not reach an agreement over who would replace resigning member Greg Cizek.

"From a decision-making standpoint, the board devolved into gridlock," said former board member Mark Luetke. "It was a very dysfunctional board environment."

By law, appointment powers were turned over to Lucas County Probate Court Judge Jack Puffenberger. He chose Mr. Gernot, a public defender and private practice lawyer with four children who attended Sylvania schools.

Current and former school board members credit the appointment, in part, with helping restore order to the board.

Perhaps it was his background as a lawyer. Or that his wife, Luci, was a school administrator.

But Mr. Gernot's appointment was a turning point for the board, school board members and alumni say.

"George was a stabilizer," school board President David Spiess recalled. "It allowed the board to continue down a path that was much more productive."

During his years on the board, Mr. Gernot oversaw the hiring of a superintendent and the passage of an operating levy. He was known as a fiscal conservative and individualist.

"George was diligent," Mr. Luetke said. "He was always informed about the facts. George could be a contrarian. He challenged the conventional wisdom."

Mr. Spiess said the resignation is a loss for the board, in terms of experience as well as leadership.

"To some extent, George was a mentor to me," Mr. Spiess said, adding that he served as vice president under Mr. Gernot when he was president. "We've accomplished a lot here."

As school board members shared lighthearted ribbing or a fond memory of Mr. Gernot in his final meeting July 14, memories of strife seemed distant.

Mr. Gernot's term doesn't expire until January, 2010, but he is preparing to move to Wood County.

His wife has accepted an administrative position with the county's educational service center.

A replacement for Mr. Gernot will be selected during the school board's meeting on Monday.

"It's been a wonderful opportunity to serve," he said. "It's been a long and interesting ride."

Board members and administrators alike remain grateful to him as a man who helped ensure the continued vitality of the district.

"I just think George cared passionately about the public education system," Mr. Luetke said. "He wanted the best for Sylvania kids."

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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