GIRARD SCHOOLS New chief seeks to mend rifts with parents

Shoaf says the intermediate school will open when it's safe and not a day sooner.
GIRARD -- Joseph Shoaf, Girard's new schools superintendent, wants to renew relations between the district and community.
That may be easier said than done since parents have filed two lawsuits against the district within a week, and a third is expected.
One suit seeks to retain Robert Foley as intermediate school principal, another wants Prospect Elementary School closed until it's environmentally safe, and petitions are being circulated to remove the entire school board.
"It want to get community relations where it used to be," said the 35-year-old Shoaf, who was named July 23 to run the district. He was the junior high school principal.
Some ideas: Shoaf, of Cortland, said he plans to open communications by calling on the press to keep the public aware of continued environmental tests at the intermediate school.
The building was closed in May because of health issues.
Shoaf said he plans to speak to organizations about education and what it means to a community.
Shoaf explained that he will also be appointing a superintendent's advisory committee so he can seek opinions about the schools, curriculum and how best to prepare pupils for the work force.
"The school is a reflection of the community," Shoaf said. "It's still a good school system and a good city. All this stuff will go away eventually."
He also plans to establish an advisory committee composed of a pupil from each grade and have monthly meetings to get pupils' opinions on issues. He also will be riding on buses with pupils.
Once the remedial work is done on the intermediate school to correct environmental problems that sickened staff members and pupils and it can reopen, Shoaf will set up an office for himself in the building.
"I won't ask the staff to go in before I do," he explained, adding that parents will be able to check out the building before it's reopened.
Shoaf said there is no timetable to reopen the intermediate school. "We'll go in when it's safe and not a day before."
Former superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio focused on academics and curriculum development, Shoaf said.
Student achievement: The new superintendent said that with the tension between the community and school district, he wants to "get out there in a leadership role and keep the focus on student achievement."
Shoaf's goal is to see the district receive the Ohio Award for Excellence. It's a process of self-assessment of educational functions with an outside agency doing an evaluation.
"It's vital that we not get caught up [with the health issues]. We need to focus on student achievement. Everybody needs to do their job," he said.
Promotion: When Shoaf came here three years ago from Maple Heights, where he was assistant high school principal, he didn't expect to become superintendent so quickly.
Shoaf received his doctorate in educational leadership in 2000 from Youngstown State University.
He did so, he said, to better himself and be eligible to become a high school principal in Cleveland, where a doctorate is a requirement.
Both his parents are teachers.
Shoaf and his wife, Tammy, recently had triplets, and Shoaf promised his wife that he would slow down.
It wasn't meant to be.
"I always knew I was going to be a superintendent somewhere," Shoaf said, noting he preferred it be Girard.
"I didn't want to become an administrative gypsy, but I had no idea it was going to come so quickly."

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