MYTOWN NEO  |  JUNE 20, 2010  |  by Steve Wiandt

Chalkboard Drawings

Peninsula -- Dr. Jeff Graham, superintendent of Woodridge Local Schools, has been named the new superintendent of Parma City Schools.

Graham said he will likely resign on June 22, the day after the Parma School Board is expected to approve his hiring. The Woodridge Board will likely accept his resignation in a special meeting June 23, Graham added. Graham will replace Dr. Sarah Zatik, who is retiring July 31 after seven years as superintendent, according to parmacityschools.org. His new duties will begin Aug. 2.

“Woodridge Schools accomplished a great deal during the tenure of Jeff Graham, most notably attaining ‘Excellent with Distinction’ on the district report card,” said Woodridge School Board President Cheryl Hoover. “The community benefited by his leadership and we wish him well as he continues his career at Parma.”

The Board of Education has begun the process of finding a replacement for Graham, Hoover said. However, the process is in the early stages.

“Dr. Graham brings to our district a track record of success, collaboration and dynamic leadership,” said Parma School Board President Leo Palaibis. “He will be a great asset to our students, staff members and the entire community.”

In addition to spending the past seven years as the leader of the Woodridge schools, Graham’s experience includes four years as a principal with the Medina City Schools and six years as a classroom teacher in both the Highland and Wadsworth school systems.

Graham said he told the Woodridge Board of Education in April that he was planning to apply for the Parma superintendent’s position.

“I was interested in Parma because of the pride they have for their community and their schools,” he said. “Although the district has fallen on tough times, I believe it can be turned around and I would enjoy being a part of that process.”

He said he had considered other opportunities in the past but “none that I sought through to the end.”

Graham was hired in August 2003 and replaced Dr. George McGuire, who retired after serving as district superintendent for three years.

Graham scored high in his evaluation by the Board last November. His contract was extended to July 31, 2012.

His annual salary at Woodridge has been $116,515. The school district’s student population is 1,914, according to Deanna Levenger, district treasurer.

Parma City Schools’ student population is 12,188, said Daniel Bowman, Parma Schools treasurer. Zatik, the district’s outgoing superintendent, has been making $125,627 a year, Bowman said, adding that a couple of years ago she retired and was rehired for $15,000 less per year.

The Woodridge District’s two most recent levy requests were approved by voters. This past May, voters renewed a 2.03-mill operating levy for 10 years. In May 2009, voters renewed a 10.1-mill for five years.

“Having Dr. Graham resign and leave the Woodridge School District is similar to losing a family member,” said Mic Becerra, principal of Woodridge High School. “For me, Jeff is like a big brother who always supports me in my professional career, and who gave me an opportunity to become an administrator 10 years ago.”

Becerra worked with Graham at Medina High School as one of his assistant principals.

“He is an outstanding superintendent, leader, mentor, and more importantly a great friend,” Becerra said. “Jeff will be deeply missed.”

“I’ve been in many districts that use the word family to describe their relationships with each other -- but in Woodridge it’s true,” Graham said. “The district has earned a great deal of success over the years and it all occurred as a result of their hard work and support.”

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