By DAVID GREEN
Fayette schools will have a new administrative post filled in August following the hiring of Gene Rupp as the Director of Digital Services.
Rupp currently serves as a grant administrator with the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center (NwOESC), an organization serving schools in four counties with a variety of services ranging from special education and gifted education to psychological services.
Rupp, a resident of Wauseon, began working in the field of education late in life after a career in the military and as a pastor. He joined the NwOESC 13 years ago and he’s had a variety of duties with the organization. His wife, Ellen, works as a reading specialist at Fayette Elementary School.
Fayette superintendent Erik Belcher knew Rupp would be a good candidate to fill Fayette's new post, but he wasn't sure he could convince him to leave his current job.
"Gene has written $10 million in grants with the NwOESC and he has certification for gifted education," Belcher said.
Rupp has also helped administer the 21st Century Education program, an after-school tutoring project. Fayette is now in its fourth year with the program.
"I'm really excited with the possibilities that Gene will bring beyond grant-writing," Belcher said. "It's opened up so many different paths."
Seeking grants will be an integral part of Rupp's work with Fayette, because, Belcher said, "We need to look at alternative sources of funding in addition to tax revenue."
In addition to seeking grants, Rupp will assist Fayette with developing more opportunities for gifted students; create and administer the Fayette Digital Academy to offer more on-line opportunities for students, including earning college credit while in high school; assist the school's technology coordinator; serve as an educational leader with the 21st Century program; work with local businesses to learn about their needs to prepare students to enter the workforce; and assist the superintendent with staff evaluations.
New staff regulations from the state will require nine and a half hours of evaluation annually for every teacher, Belcher said.
"It's good," he added, "but the time constraints are overwhelming."
Belcher doesn't expect that Rupp will accomplish all of those tasks in the first year and he expects the job to grow over time.
Even though the position will be paid for through a variety of cost savings over the next year, Belcher wants it to become self-supporting through grants and increased student activity in the school district from students currently enrolled in home schooling and virtual schooling.
He's already heard from some other administrators about contracting services through Rupp, such as a possible role in serving as a gifted education coordinator, so that could bring in some unexpected revenue.
"I'm excited about the changes and also nervous about the changes," Belcher said. "Now it's a matter of making it work."
Rupp is looking forward to the challenge.
“It has some great potential for benefitting the students of Fayette,” he said. “It’s education fitting the student rather than the student fitting into education.”
Rupp said that student-centered education not only benefits the student, but it strengthens the entire district, as well.