Madison board

Madison Board members from left, Amy Walker, Jane McGinty, board president Jeff Meyers, John Leudy and Tim Wigton. 

MADISON TOWNSHIP -- The Madison Local School Board of Education appointed a new superintendent during a short meeting on Wednesday night.

John Thomas, 71, will be replacing Lee Kaple, who stepped in after district superintendent Shelley Hilderbrand was placed on paid administrative leave last fall.

The board voted 4-1 to extend a one-year pact to Thomas, with board member Amy Walker casting the lone dissenting vote.

"As you know, we've held two special meetings on May 15 and May 16 to interview the candidates for acting superintendent for next year," she said. "When interviews were over with three candidates, who all gave spectacular interviews ... I firmly believe the choice should be someone of our own (for the position) Someone more economical.

"With that being said, I want to make it very clear that just because my choice may not be the same as everyone else, I can still be supportive."

Thomas did not attend the meeting.

John Thomas

John Thomas

According to a press release sent out by Ed Swartz of Mid-Ohio Education Service Center, Thomas has more than 30 years of experience as a superintendent between his time at Alliance City Schools and Delaware City Schools.  He served a four-month term as interim superintendent of the Mansfield City Schools in 2010 before moving in to the private sector.

When Kaple was hired into the position after serving as Madison superintendent for eight years, he told the board he didn't want to have his new role for more than a school year.

Now, it's Thomas' turn to anchor the district.

Thomas earned his Bachelor of Science degree in English and History and Political Science, his Master of Science in Supervision and Curriculum and Doctorate in Educational Administration from The University of Akron.

Thomas is set to earn $115,000 this year, according to Schwartz.

“I’m looking forward to meeting district personnel and the Madison community to gather input on their vision for the positive forward direction of the district,” Thomas said. “I am excited to be back in education and working with the Madison Local Schools.”

According to the Ohio Department of Education's website, Thomas earned his first four-year provisional local superintendent license in 1984. He received his permanent superintendent certificate in 2001.

"He's a pretty impressive guy," said school board president Jeff Meyers. "He has a history of helping school districts prepare for a regular superintendent and helping those interested in being a superintendent."

Meyers said Thomas is interested in helping groom potential internal candidates for the position going forward.

Thomas' employment comes while Hilderbrand and the Madison district are still contractually tied, Meyers said. She was placed on leave in September, 2018, after a string of controversies, capped by a protest that included 200 students.

Mrs. Hilderbrand.jpg

Madison superintendent Shelley Hildebrand. She was placed on paid administrative leave in September, 2018.

The district has been in a state of flux for more than a year.

In March a group of parents questioned the STEM curriculum that will become mandatory in the district in the place of other electives.

In May, 2018, Hildebrand recommended the board not renew the contract of popular teacher Eddie Walker. More than 150 people attended a May 31, 2018 school board meeting and it was agreed by a unanimous vote of the board that Walker's contract should be renewed.

Madison Board of Education meetings drew significant crowds last summer as the community questioned a number of decisions. Those concerns led to a Town Hall meeting on July 11.

In addition, a number of parents expressed outrage when a group of approximately a dozen high school students were punished after tweets that were critical of Hilderbrand. That story drew statewide attention and sparked the Sept. 19, 2018 protest and walkout.

Hilderbrand signed a three-year contract with the district in August, 2017.

Thomas marks the third superintendent the district has had in less than a year.

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.