WELLINGTON — Four major hires that will shape the school system’s future, including a new treasurer, were made last week by the Wellington Board of Education.
Mark Donnelly was chosen to handle the district’s finances as it struggles with two aging buildings and state funding cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donnelly has worked for Chagrin Falls and Warren school districts, and was operations director at the Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center. He also served seven years as business services director for the Strongsville Schools.
Since last September, the Medina resident has been executive director of the Bond Accountability Commission, an independent body set up to watchdog $1 billion in Cleveland school system construction projects.
Wellington Superintendent Ed Weber said Donnelly’s experience with construction and maintenance won him the job.
That expertise will come in handy as decisions are made about the future of Westwood Elementary, which needs millions in repairs, as well as Wellington High School, where more work is needed, he said.
Donnelly was extended a contract through July 2023.
Weber said a number of high-quality candidates were quickly found by a search firm called Finding Leaders. Hiring Donnelly now will allow current Wellington Treasurer Tina Gabler to resign effective June 30.
She plans to retire in December.
Until then, she will work part-time for the Mount Gilead Schools near her home in Morrow County, Weber said.
She will stay on Wellington’s payroll to assist Donnelly on an as-needed basis through the end of the calendar year.
In another important vote, Janet Kubasak was selected to be the next principal at Westwood. taking over for Erica Ward, who resigned at the end of the school year.
With 20 years of experience in education, Kubasak is a consultant who helps districts develop strategic plans for improvement, and Weber said she has worked on several occasions with Wellington teachers.
She is also an adjunct professor at Ashland University, where she has taught master’s courses for more than a decade.
Weber called her “the catch of a lifetime.”
“The skills she’s going to bring to our staff, to our families, to our students — I just couldn’t be more excited about the skill she’s going to bring to our school,” he said.
Ward was principal at Westwood for two years. Weber credited her with helping the school claw up from an F in reading on the state report card to a C.
He said it will be Kubasak’s job to take students move from a C to an A.
Her contract runs through July 2023.
A different Ward was promoted to lead the Wellington marching and concert bands. Hayley Ward has been a vocal and general music teacher at McCormick Middle School.
She’s also served as assistant under retiring band director Toni Novotny, and was chosen from a pool of 30 candidates to take the baton.
Weber said school board members believe Ward is the right person to grow the band, which in recent years has seen numbers fall below 20 members.
“They said Hayley had lots of fresh ideas and they like that she has a plan to put those ideas into place,” he said.
A new guidance counselor was also hired — Amy Sherman will serve students at McCormick.
Weber said she will focus on providing emotional and social support to kids at a tough age, “to help them make the most out of not just school but out of life.”
“She has a really personal way of connecting with people and will certainly be a support I can see all of our students appreciating,” he said.
In other business last Monday, the Board of Education learned that a seven-year state investigation into special education services at Wellington has come to an end.
Seeing those services improve, the Ohio Department of Education lifted the intense scrutiny the Wellington Schools had been under.
Weber said that if issues were not corrected, the state had been ready to take direct control of the district’s special education spending.
Nancy Nimmo was hired last year to oversee the district’s special education services.
She said a lot of students who used to be pulled into resource rooms are now learning side-by-side with typical students. “That has made a huge difference, I think, across the board,” she said.