East Palestine superintendent to lead Boardman schools

Correspondent photo / Russell Brickey ... Incoming Boardman Local Schools Superintendent Christopher Neifer, left, shakes hands with current superintendent Tim Saxton after being hired Tuesday by the Boardman Board of Education to replace Saxton, who is retiring, effective July 31. Neifer is the superintendent of East Palestine City Schools.

BOARDMAN — The school district’s new superintendent, Christopher Neifer, was met with a warm reception Tuesday evening as the Boardman Board of Education unanimously voted to hire him.

“I’m really happy to be coming home,” Neifer told the board during his public remarks. “I’ve been part of Boardman for a long time and to be able to be part of creating that environment and to continue that tradition of excellence was something that was extremely important to me when I applied, and I am really proud to have the opportunity to make that happen.”

Neifer has been in education for 28 years, according to a news release from the board, and has spent time as a science teacher, coach, elementary and high school principal, and has been the East Palestine superintendent for the past six years. Before that, he served three years as a high school principal and 11 years as teacher in Warren City Schools.

Neifer grew up on the South Side of Youngstown. His family was in attendance except for his son, Ryan, who is a sophomore at Boardman High School. Ryan had a baseball game that conflicted with his father’s appointment ceremony, Neifer told the board.

“What a great opportunity to be part of a school district that has such a tradition of excellence,” Neifer said. “It’s great to come back to my hometown to do this job. It is just a dream come true for me.”

School Board President John Fryda talked about the selection process, which included community surveys.

“We listened to the community with the surveys, and we think this is the best fit,” he said. “This has been a long process that we have been going through but we wanted to make sure that we did right by the Boardman community”

“I’ve got a son who’s come up through the (Boardman schools) and my wife is a Boardman alumna,” Neifer said, “so this is just a great opportunity to come here and be part of a community.”

Fryda described Neifer as “a great guy who is very excited” about his new post. “We look forward to Chris’ new ideas. We know he’s going to be good after all he had to go through down there in East Palestine,” Fryda said, referring to the disastrous Feb. 3, 2023, train derailment in East Palestine that released a cloud of toxic chemicals. “We got ourselves a winner there.” “Right now, I just need to figure out exactly where we are as a district,” Neifer said. “There’s a lot of great programming going on here in Boardman, so I’ve got to get a grasp on that first. I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” he said, referring to outgoing Superintendent Tim Saxton.

Saxton attended the ceremony and was given a standing ovation for his service to Boardman schools.

“We are replacing a superintendent, but not Tim Saxton,” Fryda said. “There is only one. We appreciate everything you have done for Boadman Schools and congratulations.”

Saxton will remain at his post until July 31. Neifer will begin his three-year contract on Aug. 1.

The other finalist for the post was Struthers City Schools Superintendent Pete Pirone.

“The Board expresses gratitude for the participation of all applicants. Their credentials and overall commitment to educational excellence was impressive,” the release stated. “Board members believe Neifer is most aligned with the qualities and experience to fit the needs of Boardman, and that our stakeholders expressed they valued most.”

“We believe Chris is a proven leader, as shown through his navigating an unimagined community crisis,” Boardman Board President John Fryda said. “He’s a seasoned educator, and as a resident of Boardman with a child attending school here, he is keenly aware of the Spartan tradition of excellence.”

Neifer will take over for Tim Saxton, who is set to retire effective July 31. Saxton took over as superintendent in 2016 after holding multiple positions within the district.

Have an interesting story? Contact the newsroom by email at news@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today