By DAVID GREEN
Fayette’s board of education found what it was looking for and hired a new administrator to fill the dual role of superintendent and elementary school principal.
The board met for a special session Thursday morning to hire North Central’s elementary principal Erik Belcher. Belcher emerged as the top choice among a dozen candidates and was signed to a three-year contract with an annual salary of $90,000.
The board also accepted the resignation of superintendent Russ Griggs, effective at the end of July, and then hired him to serve as a consultant for one month to assist with Belcher’s transition. He will be paid $335 for each day that he works.
When Fayette’s former elementary school principal Dr. Luann Boyer announced her retirement in May, Griggs suggested that the board consider hiring someone to fill a dual administrative role since his contract as a part-time superintendent would expire in 2013.
Making the move to Fayette wasn’t an easy decision for Belcher, but he’s convinced he’s making the right choice.
“I love the people here at North Central,” Belcher said, “but I’ve wanted to lead a district and I thought the Fayette position was a good way to grow professionally.”
One thing that appealed to him with the new Fayette arrangement is that he will continue to have direct contact with students.
Belcher grew up in West Unity and attended Adrian College where he played basketball. He served as a third grade teacher for 10 years with the Allen East district in Harrod, Ohio, near Lima, and also taught junior high history there for three years.
He earned a master’s degree from the University of Dayton in 2008 and was hired by the North Central district in Pioneer as the elementary school principal.
He will wrap up his superintendent licensure this summer through the University of Findlay.
Belcher speaks highly of Griggs’s school leadership.
“He does what’s best for kids,” Belcher said, “and it will make my job easier to follow someone like Russ Griggs.”
Griggs, a veteran of 38 years in public education, finished out his career as a part-time superintendent at Fayette. He served as a superintendent for 31 years at various districts and often worked on an interim basis.
The top leadership spot has remained fairly stable in Fulton County over recent years, Griggs said, but this year five of seven districts will have changes.
Griggs was with the Fayette district for four years, arriving when the new building project was half completed.
“A strength of this district is the smooth relations among board members, staff and the community,” he said.
Tough financial situations often lead to contentious times, he said, but that hasn’t been the case at Fayette. Contracts are in place, there are no audit findings, the special education program was recently approved, and the district is achieving “excellent” ratings through the state testing program.
Belcher will be coming into a stable situation, Griggs said, other than continual financial problems. A millage will be needed in a year or two.
With fewer students and fewer teachers, the new combined position is a good example of shared services, said school treasurer Kelly Bentley. Planning was already underway to reduce the hours for the principal position, and with the combined job, the district will save about $2,000 annually from current costs.
The combined role will be a challenge for Belcher, Griggs said, but staff members are already accustomed to a part-time administrator who isn’t always in the office.
Belcher’s contract begins Aug. 1.