BY Jordan Cohen
Schools Superintendent Mark Robinson, whose resignation is effective today after 14 months on the job, said he never intended to leave this early when he accepted the position last year.
“I couldn’t have told you six months ago [that this would happen], but I have this opportunity to retire and accept a position with [the Ohio Department of Education],” Robinson said. “When I first came here, my game plan was for this to be my last stop, be here for five years and retire from Niles schools.”
Robinson’s unexpected resignation surprised the board of education. Wednesday, the board appointed Frank Danso, the retired superintendent of Southington Local Schools, interim superintendent through July 2013. Robinson did not attend the meeting.
Robinson, 54, gave two reasons for his decision. One involved changes to the State Teachers Retirement System that would lessen his benefits if he stayed as superintendent. “This gives me the opportunity to take part in a retirement system I’ve planned for [more than] 31 years,” Robinson said.
The other is the ODE offer. Robinson said he will be “student growth and alignment specialist” and a regional coordinator for Northeast Ohio, responsible for professional development in compliance with the “Race to the Top” education programs beginning with the next school year. Niles schools are not a participant in that program.
Robinson’s salary, which rose to $120,000 a year in the first months of his three-year contract, became a point of controversy since it was significantly higher than that of his predecessor, Rocco Adduci. A study by The Vindicator found that his compensation was comparable to superintendents in similar-sized Ohio school districts. Nonetheless, Robinson said the issue negatively affected his initial outreach to the community.
“As time went by, people started to understand [that] my contract wasn’t going to be the be-all and end-all of this district, but it was worse in the beginning,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that although he maintained his residence in Broadview Heights, he rented a Niles apartment as soon as he accepted the superintendent position and stayed there “three or four nights a week.”
The superintendent said that he believes his biggest accomplishment has been to resolve the district’s financial issues through contracts with the unions representing the classified employees and teachers. “We had been sitting on the threshold of fiscal emergency, so I’m extremely happy what all of us were able to do as a group for Niles city schools,” Robinson said.
The superintendent revealed his biggest disappointment was the district’s academic program falling short of an “excellent” rating from ODE. The district is currently rated as “effective,” one step below “excellent.”
Robinson said that his message for the Niles schools is to stay the course. “Don’t change a thing, because as difficult as it is, we’re on the right track,” the superintendent said.