The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 18, 2013

Geneva BOE: Rehiring Zappitelli saves money

By MARGIE NETZEL - mnetzel@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

GENEVA —  Geneva Board of Education members have not been shy about their intention to retire, then rehire Superintendent Mary Zappitelli, and have given official public notice and scheduled a public hearing on the matter.

The board of education acknowledged Zappitelli’s impending “service retirement” at the regular board meeting, doing so against the wishes of a lone citizen who voiced opposition to the notice.

“I just think this should be tabled until the pubic can review this,” resident Dan Whitmire said. “I realize what you are doing is not breaking the law, and I’m sure Mrs. Zappitelli is a fine person, but I disagree with this.”

Whitmire said the board should not even post the public notice in the newspaper until the public has a chance to discuss the matter.

Board president David Foote said a high need for superintendents across Ohio means Geneva could end up with a first-year superintendent if it looked to hire now.

“Ohio is estimating that this spring there will be approximately 150 superintendent openings, with 70 possibly filled by first-time superintendents,” he said. “Given the number of school districts in Ohio, a 25 percent turnover rate is anticipated. Three of our seven public school districts in Ashtabula County have new superintendents this year.”

Changes in the State Teacher Retirement System mean that “vacuums” have been created, with leadership succession planning gone to the wayside, Foote said.

Zappitelli’s service retirement is part of anticipating those changes, he said.

“The retire and rehire tool will save our district approximately $29,000 per year in salary and benefits,” Foote said. “This will also allow us the opportunity to conduct a careful and thoughtful search for a succeeding superintendent.”

Foote said the district’s steady growth makes the board leery of changing leadership right now.

Continuity is needed in the district’s grant earnings with the state program Race to the Top, personnel negotiations, the completion of the total district construction project and the new teacher evaluation systems, he said.

Whitmire said he isn’t happy with rehiring Zappitelli for the same position, even if she earned her pension.

“I tell you that the community as I know it — I mean that I have not talked to anyone who agrees with this,” he said.

A public meeting will be held on June 6 at 5 p.m. at the Geneva Middle School to discuss Zappitelli’s continuing service to the district.