The Huber Heights school board on Tuesday hired Yellow Springs Superintendent Mario Basora to take over the district this summer, replacing Susan Gunnell, who will retire after 35 years in the district, the last seven as superintendent.
Basora, who has been superintendent at Yellow Springs schools for nine years, will work on a three-year contract at Huber Heights. He told the crowd Tuesday that he’ll immediately work on building trust among staff and in the community, something he said had been one of Gunnell’s strengths.
“My goal in first year is to learn,” Basora said, referencing good work that’s already happening in the district. “I plan to listen and get to know the staff and the community. Then we can work on strategic planning for the long term, together as a group.”
Several board members said the interview and decision process was difficult, with disagreement at times, because the pool of candidates was so good. But all spoke highly of Basora on Tuesday, and the hiring vote was 5-0.
Board member William Harris cited Basora’s presence in the interview process and how much he already knew about Huber Heights schools. Mark Combs complimented Basora’s enthusiasm and research preparation, calling him “the right person at the right time for the right community.”
Basora has also been a middle-school principal in the Wyoming and Princeton districts near Cincinnati. His Yellow Springs district, which is about one-tenth the size of Huber Heights, has become well-known for strong project-based learning efforts. They had some controversy last year with the resignation of the high school principal.
The other two finalists for the job were Beavercreek Assistant Superintendent Jason Enix and Scott Reeves, executive director of secondary education for Westerville schools near Columbus. Three other candidates who interviewed before the finalist round were London Superintendent Lou Kramer, Dublin Deputy Superintendent Tracey Miller, and Jeff Patrick, director of business and classified staff at Fairborn schools
Huber Heights schools got D’s in both the overall grade and in student progress on the most recent state report card. In recent years, Huber has generally ranked 10th or 11th of the county’s 16 school districts in state test performance.
Huber Heights voters rejected school levies six straight times in the first half of this decade, leading the district to make significant budget cuts. The schools are now in solid financial shape, according to their five-year forecast, with 75 percent of a year’s expenses in the bank and solid balances projected the next five years.