Incoming Huber schools chief wants public input on district’s future

In a state where schools have to track student progress by race, disability, socioeconomics and more, incoming Huber Heights Superintendent Mario Basora called that diversity the greatest strength of his new district.

“You have kids from varying backgrounds all coming together in one school district, and the truth is when we all leave high school and go to college or a career, we’re going to need to engage and get to know people of all different backgrounds,” he said.

FEBRUARY: Huber school board picks Basora to lead district

Basora won’t take over as superintendent of the 5,700-student district until August. But he’s already in the transition process so the Dayton Daily News asked about his vision for the district.

The contract approved last month will pay for Basora to spend up to 15 days working with retiring Superintendent Sue Gunnell.

Basora, who is wrapping up his ninth year as Yellow Springs superintendent, has said learning and listening to all parts of the community is his first priority.

“I have a strength to connect to people and really build interpersonal relationships,” Basora said. “I’m also a really focused person and can really drive the strategic plan forward … We’ll have an opportunity to really get to know a lot of folks within the community. And I think over the next year, we’re going to really build a new strategic plan within the community, collectively, with all the stakeholders involved.”

Huber Heights has ranked 10th or 11th of Montgomery County’s 16 school districts in state test performance in recent years, earning an overall “D” on the most recent state report card.

Earlier this decade, voters rejected six straight school levies, leading to significant budget cuts that now have the schools in solid financial shape.

RELATED: Gunnell to retire at Huber Heights superintendent

“Mrs. Gunnell has done a really good job of moving this district through some serious concerns,” school board President Tony Cochren said. “She has positioned the school district, along with the previous board, in a very good place for Mr. Basora to step in and just take off with his vision that he’ll work with the staff and community to continue to develop.”

The school board gave Basora a three-year contract with a base salary of $156,000 per year — fairly consistent with local averages given district size. The pay is slightly less than the Kettering and Beavercreek superintendents receive.

His contract includes perks common for local superintendents, such as paying his retirement contribution, a $400 per month car allowance and mileage reimbursement.

School board member Kelly Bledsoe said the district had excellent candidates, but it was crucial to make the right hire.

RELATED: Huber, other districts working on student health

“You can have all the best goals and all the best plans, but without the right people in there, it doesn’t mean anything,” Bledsoe said. “(Basora) has a very compelling personal story of how he became involved in education, has a wealth of experience, and I think he’s going to do a great job of preparing our students for higher education or technical training or military service.”

Bledsoe agreed with Cochran that Gunnell and her administrative staff have built a great foundation for Basora, saying good things are happening in the school district, although he said it’s unfortunate that state report card results don’t always reflect it.

EDUCATION: How did your district do on the state report card?

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