NILES - A top-to-bottom review of its educational and financial goals will be performed in the school district over the next several months to develop a strategic plan for the next several years, new Superintendent Mark Robinson said.
Robinson, 52, is one of seven new superintendents in the 21 Trumbull County school districts this academic year.
"We will be working with our school professionals, unions, business and community leaders, parents and other stakeholders in the development of this plan," Robinson said. "During our Aug. 16 board retreat, we set a goal of March 1, 2012, to develop a strategic plan for the district."
Robinson, who began work on Aug. 1, also is negotiating contracts with the Niles teachers union and Ohio Association of Public School Employees. Contracts for both unions end this month.
One sticking point of new contracts is Robinson's own contract. He was hired at $110,600 a year. Plus, he is eligible for a 7.5 percent bonus and another 1 percent increase for working non-working hours, which could put him at $120,001 this year.
Former Superintendent Rocco Adduci earned $91,000 in the final year of his contract.
During last week's week Board of Education meeting - after union members criticized the superintendent's contract - Robinson acknowledged that it has created an issue. It is especially a concern this year because the district is trying to close a projected $800,000 budget deficit.
"I spoke with people who expressed concerns (about my contract) and honored their feelings," he said. "What I can say is that I'm going to give this district 110 percent."
School board member Tony Perrone defended the contract. "It is his qualifications and what he brings to the table that fall in line with the salary he is being paid. It is his experience that we are paying for."
Perrone said he likes the idea of a strategic plan for the district, especially one that will be worked on and improved upon over the next five years.
"It will tell us where we are going. This school district is at a crossroads,'' he said. ''We are building new schools, are bringing in new people and I believe the community needs to be involved.
Robinson says he is pleased the district once again earned an Effective rating on the 2010-11 Ohio State Report Cards.
"We met state standards in 19 out of 26 categories and improved in 17," Robinson said. "We saw some slippage in seven categories, but not by much.
"Clearly, this district is headed in the right direction," he said.
One of the district's biggest challenges is that it is in fiscal watch, Robinson said, and he doesn't want the state to take over its finances.
"I believe it is better for us to work through our financial situation on our own, rather than to have seven people from an outside commission to come in here to do it for us," Robinson said.
The superintendent said the district already is lean as far as its teaching and professional staff personnel.
"We have class sizes of 28 to 30 students in our middle and high schools," he said. "We are in the mid-20s at the elementary schools."
At the administration office, the district has three administration leaders compared to seven in the Ashland schools, where Robinson formerly worked.
One of the reasons the board said it selected Robinson was his ability to find outside money to supplement the district's budget. While there, he helped get a a federal grant for $500,000 for the physical education program.
"We were able to use the general fund money normally set aside for physical education in other areas, thanks to the federal grant," Robinson said. "We are hoping to find other grants for Niles."
Niles in 2008 passed a 5.3-mill bond issue to raise 29 percent of a $62 million Ohio Schools Facilities Commission building project to build new buildings.
"We will build an educational plan around the new schools," Robinson said.