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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2012

School chief finalist for job near Columbus

Zalar received salary boost in '11


Less than a year after Oregon school board members gave the superintendent a raise to entice him to stay, Mike Zalar is a finalist for a school superintendent's job outside Columbus.

Mr. Zalar interviewed last Thursday for the opening at Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, a 7,000-student district northeast of the state's capital. The Oregon district has about 4,000 students.

The Gahanna-Jefferson board is expected to approve its new superintendent's contract at a May 21 meeting, said district spokesman Michael Straughter. The new superintendent would start Aug. 1, about three weeks before school opens.

Gahanna-Jefferson's superintendent, Mark White, is to step down July 31 because he wants to spend more time with his family in Texas, according to the district.

Mr. White is paid $151,000 annually, said Mr. Straughter, adding he did not know what the salary would be for Mr. White's replacement.

At Oregon, Mr. Zalar is paid $130,221 annually under a contract that expires July 31, 2014.

He did not return phone calls or emails for comment.

Last year, he received an 11.3 percent salary increase, which became an issue during the November, 2011, school board election. At an October meeting, several board members defended the raise, saying Mr. Zalar deserved it and more money would help the district retain him.

Board president Richard Gabel, who was among those defending the raise, said last week that he was "surprised" when he heard about Mr. Zalar being a finalist for another job.

"I don't want him to go. He's a good superintendent," Mr. Gabel said. "I don't want to lose him."

From a field of 30 applications, the other three second-round finalists are James Grube, superintendent of Buckeye Valley Local Schools near Delaware, Ohio, John Kellogg, assistant superintendent of curriculum at South Western City Schools in Grove City, Ohio, and Francis Robert Scruci, superintendent of Wellington Exempted Village Schools in Wellington, Ohio.

Mr. Zalar has been with Oregon schools for a decade. He was the principal at Clay High School from August, 2002, through July, 2008, and was named superintendent in August, 2008.

Under his leadership this year, the district built three wind turbines, studied other ways to become energy-efficient, and created a bus shuttle service after drastically reducing busing.

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