Superintendent David Hall
Watch and monitor — that is the approach new superintendent David Hall is taking in his first year leading the Oberlin City Schools.
Hall was chosen in July to fill the district’s top spot after former superintendent John Schroth passed away in April due to cancer.
Hall served as the assistant superintendent at the Lorain City Schools for two years and was a principal and assistant principal for seven schools in Lorain starting in 1991.
We sat down with him to talk about his goals and the vision for the the 2015-2016 school year.
AREAS OF FOCUS
Hall wants to focus on learning and working with Oberlin’s International Baccalaureate program, getting to know the community, passing a bond levy this November, and working with the city’s police and fire chiefs.
He wants to have a stronger collaboration with Oberlin’s police and fire departments in the schools with classroom presentations.
Hall plans to bring one strategy over from his time in Lorain: Students found “doing the right thing” should be recognized at board of education meetings.
He also wants to grow the city’s shop with a cop program. “We’re hoping to do that with the fire department too,” Hall said.
Growing the bond between the school system and community is another important goal. He took that idea to the streets last week, walking Oberlin’s downtown and introducing himself to business owners and residents.
Extending a welcome to community organizations also fits into that plan. Hall plans to create a “team summit” with residents, staff members, and both Oberlin’s police and fire chiefs to discuss different issues in the schools.
“I plan to meet with student council at least once a month and meet with the parents,” Hall said.
“Oberlin has high standards so we’ll maintain those high standards and continue to advance the IB program,” Hall said.
The district will have a new Spanish teacher for the elementary students but will continue the SITES program with Oberlin College students who teach Spanish to students at Eastwood Elementary School.
Hall said Oberlin’s attendance and graduation rates are great and he wants to continue the schools’ growth. He’ll continue to expand on the district’s programs offered to students, especially with Oberlin College.
“They’re already involved within the schools but we’ll continue that partnership and any other partnerships we can create,” Hall said. “I’m really impressed with Oberlin and the collaborations they have.”
The American Institutes for Research test will replace last year’s PARCC exam, which received complaints statewide from teachers and parents.
“It’s constantly changing at the state level so we always have to keep up-to-date with those,” Hall said about state testing.
The new state tests are expected to be shorter and less stressful than the PARCCs.
“The students did well on the PARCCs so they’ll do well on AIRs,” he said. “In a district here with high academics, I know our students will excel.”
State testing is not going to go away but Hall wants teachers to remember to incorporate the fun of learning into their classrooms regardless of which tests are offered each school year.
Teachers are more prepared for this year’s exams and will receive training to help prepare the kids for the exams, he said.
He anticipates posting additional information about state exams on the district’s website and sending information home to parents to keep them informed about testing.
The biggest task Hall has to handle this fall is leading the charge for a 4.75-mill levy that will appear on the November ballot.
If approved, it will fund a new $16.7 million preschool-through-fifth grade campus located near Oberlin High School’s southern parking lot.
The 52,000-square-foot building will cost $166.32 per year for every $100,000 worth of property you own.
The two-story building would house students from Eastwood and Prospect elementaries under one roof, have an outdoor classroom, playground, bike paths, and solar arrays. Construction would entail moving the athletic fields to the north side of the property behind the high school and reconstructing Hovey Lane off East Lorain Street.
Hall plans to start holding presentations and meetings for community members to attend after the start of the school year.
“The schools are definitely in need of repairs,” Hall said.
He said the buildings look beautiful form the outside but when you go inside the schools it’s easy to spot leaks and other damage.
“You can’t judge it by the outside,” Hall said. “We can’t keep putting more money into the buildings.”
The district has used all of its permanent improvement money the past two years to make repairs to its buildings.
If voters approve the levy, the new building is expected to be finished within three years and could save the district an estimated $500,000 per year by reducing energy costs and sharing personnel.
Hall said a new campus will help the district financially and increase the possibility of collaboration between teachers.
He has worked on several levy committees in Lorain.
“The levy committee went to Lorain and saw the new high school,” Hall said. “We’ve been touring facilities and getting ideas of what’s possible.”
Hall wants to involve the entire community in designing and building a new campus.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.