"It will be difficult to replace someone with his expertise," said the South-Western City School District Board President Jim Lester after hearing Superintendent Dr. R. Kirk Hamilton was leaving.
Hamilton made the announcement on Aug. 15 that he will take on a new position as the deputy executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA). He will take office there on Jan. 1. Hamilton has been superintendent for SWCS since January 1998 and is a past BASA president.
"I have been with this district a long time and I am committed to South-Western," said Hamilton. "I did not go out to pursue this position, they approached me."
Lester added, "Obviously we would like to keep him but this is a great chance for him."
Lester said he knew Hamilton was being considered for the BASA position but said he did not know his final decision until the announcement was made public.
"It was quite a shock but we are satisfied with his decision," he said.
Hamilton said this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that he had to take.
"For the past 10 years, I have never looked for nor wanted another superintendent’s position," Hamilton noted. "This position will allow me the opportunity to help school district administrators and ultimately students across the State of Ohio."
In his new position, Hamilton will provide support services to superintendents statewide. He will continue on as the district superintendent until the end of December. In that time, the board of education will be looking for his replacement.
"Right now, we don’t have a concrete plan as to how we’re going to approach replacing the position," said Lester. "It’s been 10 years since we’ve had to hire a new superintendent."
The board plans to discuss the matter in an executive session at their Aug. 27 meeting.
Over the last decade, SWCS has seen its share of financial hardships. When Hamilton first came on as superintendent, he led the community in passing a $128 million bond issue to undertake one of the largest locally-funded school construction projects in Ohio history. This included the construction of seven new schools that were completed on time and under budget. In more recent years, Hamilton has seen cuts in staff and rejected levies.
"The toughest challenge for me has been the ongoing struggle with school funding," he said. "In my new role, I will continue to be active on the state level for funding."
The SWCS District is the sixth largest public school district in Ohio. It serves more than 21,000 students and covers 127 square miles which include Grove City, portions of the City of Columbus, and Franklin, Jackson, Pleasant and Prairie Townships.
"The district is a fabulous place and I am so proud to be a part of it," said Hamilton. "It is a great district with great staff and students, and a great community. We have seen a lot of improvements in academics."
Hamilton recently received the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation 2007 Ohio Superintendent Outstanding Performance Award. He has also been honored over the years as the Educational Office Professionals of Ohio Administrator of the Year, Ohio PTA Outstanding Superintendent and the SWCS PTA Council Outstanding Educator to name a few.
Hamilton will not finish his contract, that would have expired in 2011. In the past school year, he was paid an estimated $151,000.
Though he will take on a new position, Hamilton plans to remain active in the South-Western community.
"I believe strongly in the district and I plan to be an involved parent," he said.
Hamilton has a daughter that will be an eighth grader at Jackson Middle School.
Lester and Vice President Gary Leasure have also decided not to run for re-election this fall. Lester has been on the board for 10 years and Leasure for 12.
"I think it’s time for some younger people to move in," said Lester.