NAPOLEON — Napoleon Area City Schools held a meet-and-greet Wednesday evening for staff members and invited members of the community to introduce the final four candidates for the district’s superintendent position that is being vacated due to the retirement of Dr. Stephen Fogo in July.

The candidates, Erik Belcher, superintendent of Fayette Local Schools; Chad Cripe, principal of Tippecanoe Valley High School in Akron, Ind.; Tim Myers, superintendent of Van Buren Local Schools; and Ryan Wilde, Napoleon Junior/Senior High School principal; were each given five minutes to introduce themselves, and 25 minutes to answer questions.

Cheryl Ryan of the Ohio Schools Board Association, who is helping with the superintendent search, introduced each candidate when it was his turn to speak, with Wilde going first. He began by sharing his vision as a superintendent would begin with a culture-building concept featuring three core values.

“The superintendency needs to listen ... that’s a big thing,” said Wilde. “The second thing would be to learn. I’m going to be a first-time superintendent, there’s much I’m going to need to learn. I’m willing to learn, I’ll challenge myself, and a good leader, I believe, wraps good people around him.

“The last thing a superintendent needs to do is lead, sometimes you lead from the front, sometimes you lead from the middle, and sometimes you lead from the back,” continued Wilde. “You have to allow people who have great skill sets to be out front, but sometimes you need to raise the sabre and have people follow you. People will only let you lead if they trust you. I’m hoping I’ve built that trust, and as superintendent, I will work always to seek that trust.

“I’m a known quantity,” added Wilde, “and I believe my existing relationships will help move this district further as superintendent.”

Belcher followed Wilde, and before he started, he passed out a binder titled, “All In,” with information about goals, and how to reach them, if hired.

He shared that his wife is also an educator, that he has five children and that he’s passionate about educating kids. When asked why he wanted the position, Belcher stated that it was a great opportunity.

“There’s an opportunity for professional growth. As a teacher I could affect 30 kids, as a principal I could affect 300, as a superintendent, I can affect that many more,” said Belcher. “Napoleon is like West Unity (where Belcher grew up), it’s home. This is not a huge city, and that appeals to me because as superintendent I would still be connected to kids. I am a superintendent with a teacher-first approach.”

Belcher, and all the candidates, were asked many of the same questions: “What are some of your biggest accomplishments?” “How would make Napoleon strong academically?” “How would you immerse yourself in the community?” “How do you plan to support the staff to help with student growth?” “How would you handle union negotiations?”

Belcher was clear that in order to accomplish any goals, it starts with building relationships, and letting the people in leadership positions lead.

“Building relationships, meeting as many people as I can as quickly as I can, and finding out what the people on our staff are passionate about ... it’s all about learning and building trust,” said Belcher. “I don’t know everything, but I do know that I can learn from people who have the expertise. I know I can’t make everyone happy, but I can invest my time in the community, build relationships with businesses and most of all, educate our kids.”

Cripe was third to speak, and after sharing his background about being a teacher, coach, administrator, husband and father of four, he explained that being a superintendent to him means never forgetting that children are the biggest asset of any community.

“I’m very passionate about children, I’m very energetic and I bring a lot of excitement to the work I do,” said Cripe. “I’m a firm believer that all kids can learn and grow, and I love that this district is always in the pursuit of excellence. Everything we will do will be about student success, we have to put our resources behind professional development for our teachers, and we need to make sure we moving forward together.

“I know I will need to be visible, I plan to be involved in different (charitable) organizations, and my family is prepared to be all in this community,” added Cripe. “I know that the business community is very important, and I plan to reach out to businesses, to volunteer and get involved. I see the school district as the hub of the community, we need to make the school available to the community, and to let the community know about all our successes.”

Myers was the last candidate to speak, and he shared his background, about his family, and he spoke of some of his successes as a superintendent.

Myers was especially proud of a program he helped institute at Van Buren that allows students to explore career pathways as part of the curriculum.

“One of my biggest goals as a superintendent is to meet the needs of our kids, and career exploration is one way we’ve done that at Van Buren,” said Myers. “There are many jobs out there, and it’s up to us to help our kids explore their options, and guide them toward a pathway that meets their needs. As a superintendent, it’s my job to make my expectations clear to the people who are here, and to help the staff become what they need to be.

“I believe strongly in the chain of command, I won’t jump into a situation unless it goes through the proper channels before it gets to me (teacher/coach, principal, then superintendent),” added Myers. “I’m always going to do what I believe is right, and what is in the best interest of the students. It’s also my job to build relationships, to be honest, and to look at the big picture. I want the whole district to be great.”

In addition to the meet-and-greet, the finalists once again interviewed with the Napoleon Area Board of Education on Wednesday.

An announcement on Fogo’s replacement is expected by the end of the month.

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