EDUCATION Austintown schools chief to retire

Some board members want to conduct a statewide search for a replacement.
AUSTINTOWN -- Schools Superintendent Stan Watson says that after 31 years in education, he feels a need to try something new.
"I've given this my best for a lot of years," he said. "I feel called to do something else."
Watson added, however, that he's not sure where that calling may lead him.
"I may just sit on the porch," he joked.
Watson recently told the school board that he plans to retire at the end of this school year. The board is expected to vote on his retirement at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Austintown Middle School.
Board member Brad Gessner said Watson's thoroughness as superintendent has served the district well.
"When Stan Watson says, 'this is what we're going to do,' he's picked it apart. There's not a dollar wasted, there's not a penny wasted, and it's in the best interest of the students," Gessner said.
Board member Michael Creatore added that Watson has been willing to explore new ways to attack the district's problems.
"He's been more open than anyone else has been," Creatore said.
Financial uncertainties
Watson's announcement of his retirement comes as the district faces an uncertain financial future. School officials have said the district is facing a $1 million to $1.5 million deficit at the end of this school year.
A five-year, 3.9-mill levy that would allow the district to collect an additional $2 million annually will appear on the November ballot.
Watson said he hopes his retirement will show voters that school officials are willing to do what it takes to bring in people with new ideas on how to address funding problems. He hopes that voters will see the change as positive, helping to improve the levy's chances of passing.
Like his predecessor, Rich Denamen, Watson also noted that the district's constant struggle for funding took its toll on him and played a role in his decision to retire.
"You've got to face it every day," he said.
Watson's tenure as superintendent was short -- he was promoted to the position in August 2003 after spending 10 years as assistant superintendent. He said that before he was promoted, he told the school board that he would most likely retire in a few years.
His goals
Watson said that he had three goals as superintendent: to work toward the construction of a new middle school to replace Austintown Middle School; to improve the district's performance on its state report card; and to get the district on firm financial footing.
Workers are expected to begin clearing the site for the new middle school this fall, and he district moved up from continuous improvement to effective on its state report card this year. Watson said that with two of his three goals reached, he feels he can retire.
Watson also has worked as a principal, assistant principal, teacher and coach in the district. A Girard native, he began working for the Austintown schools after he graduated from Youngstown State University.
Both Gessner and Creatore said they want to conduct a statewide search for Watson's replacement. Gessner said the board would look for someone with the background and experience to handle a variety of issues.
Creatore, who hasn't always seen eye to eye with the rest of the board, noted that he did not want to promote anyone working in the district to superintendent. He said that in the past, hiring from within "has not put our school district in a position to move forward."
Watson is the second district administrator to announce plans to retire at the end of this school year. Athletic Director Dick Kenney also is set to retire.

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