Niles schools chief seeks input on strategic plan

BY Jordan Cohen


Mark Robinson, the new superintendent of Niles schools, says his goal is to make the district the best in the state in five years.

But that goal will not be reached without community support, he said.

“Community involvement is typical of all excellent districts, and [nothing] is going to happen without it,” said Robinson, 52, who took the district’s helm Aug. 1.

The Ohio Department of Education rates Niles schools as “effective,” two steps below the state’s highest ranking of “excellent with distinction.”

Robinson said he will work to develop a strategic plan to help meet the goals he has set and expects to have the plan completed by March 2012. He said he will reach out to office holders, local business and industry, residents and all school-district employees to participate in drafting it.

“I have no plans to hire a consultant for this, and it will all be done in-house,” Robinson said.

The superintendent said his goal of best in Ohio is realistic. “What’s wrong with shooting for that on behalf of the kids?” he asked.

Robinson said he does not believe controversy that arose over his salary when he was hired last May will impede his efforts. Teachers and several residents criticized the school board for agreeing to pay a base salary of $110,600 at a time when the school district projects an $800,000 deficit in the next school year.

An incentive clause raises the superintendent’s salary to $120,000 in September. A Vindicator comparison of superintendent salaries in eight comparably sized Ohio school districts found that Robinson’s salary is in line with his peers.

“I don’t think it has put me at a disadvantage, and it has not hurt my integration into the district,” Robinson said. “I think this is behind us and now I want people to get to know who I am as a person and a professional.”

The superintendent said he has received a number of phone calls from parents and business people, all of whom have been supportive. “They want to know how they can support and assist us,” Robinson said.

Another concern for the superintendent is the district’s projected deficit. Last October, Treasurer Linda Molinaro forecast a $6 million deficit by 2015 if current revenues and expenditures are unchanged.

“That can’t happen and won’t happen under my leadership,” Robinson vowed. “We’ll see what we can do to right the ship.”

Despite the budgetary obstacles, the superintendent said all policies have to be student-centered first if there is any hope of achieving his goals.

“I believe everything is in place for us and it’s up to us to make this happen,” Robinson said.

“Shame on us if we don’t.”

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