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State oversight panel gets new chief



Published: Tue, May 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The first replacement is on sick leave for at least four weeks.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LORDSTOWN -- The commission overseeing school district finances has its third chairman since its January creation.

The five-member commission was appointed after state Auditor Jim Petro's office declared the district in fiscal emergency Dec. 8, 2000. At that time, James Levero, a consultant with the Ohio Department of Education, was appointed chairman.

As part of a reorganization, ODE terminated Levero, effective May 1.

Last week, the department said that Jeffrey Hundt would take over as chairman, but Hundt is on sick leave for at least four weeks.

J.C. Benton, an ODE spokesman, said Bill Wenger will immediately take over the commission helm.

Wenger will remain in the post even if Hundt returns, Benton said.

Career: Wenger, who served as superintendent for Indian Valley Schools in Tuscarawas County and at Claymont Schools in Dennison, Ohio, also is a consultant with the education department, Benton said.

He also served as chairman for other school districts, including Massillon, that were in fiscal emergency. Wenger will work out of ODE's Columbus office at least for the next few weeks. Both Levero and Hundt worked out of the Cleveland office.

Benton said that Wenger plans a trip to Lordstown this week to meet with Lordstown Superintendent Ray Getz.

Concerns: Getz reiterated his concerns about the changes made by ODE. Levero was terminated without any warning to the district, he said.

"We're all held to accountability," Getz said. "The Ohio Department of Education should be held to some accountability."

He referred to a nearly $1 million overpayment that the school district received from the department's office of school finance in 1999. It took several months to resolve the mistake.

"That came out of Dr. [Susan] Tavakolian's office and now she's been promoted," Getz said.

Tavakolian now heads the state's Center for School Finance and Accountability. She previously directed the school finance section.




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