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Brian Poe confirmed as new Copley-Fairlawn Schools super

1/21/2010 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

The Copley-Fairlawn City Schools Board of Education hired Brian Poe, currently district assistant superintendent, as the district’s new superintendent effective Aug. 1. Poe, at left, is shown at a special Jan. 13 board meeting with Board President Charles Dressler.
Photo: Pam Lifke
COPLEY — Brian Poe will have a lot of big things on his plate when he takes over in August as superintendent of Copley-Fairlawn City Schools.

That district’s Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Poe, who is currently district assistant superintendent, at a special Jan. 13 meeting. The board earlier announced its intent to hire Poe after negotiating his contract. The board gave Poe a three-year contract to begin Aug. 1. His starting annual salary will be $126,000.

Dr. Roger Saurer, the district’s superintendent for the past three years, earlier advised the board he intended to retire July 31. The board accepted Saurer’s resignation for retirement purposes at its Jan. 5 meeting.

When he takes over in August, Poe will be in the thick of two of a superintendent’s biggest challenges: contract negotiations and passage of an operating levy, according to district officials. The board is expected to place a levy for school operating expenses on the ballot in November. The district’s current contract with its teachers will expire in July, with negotiations to begin in March or April, according to Treasurer John Wheadon. Negotiations with the district’s support staff are ongoing.

Poe, however, has an advantage many new superintendents don’t have, according to district officials. Having served as assistant superintendent since July 2007, he is familiar with the community, staff and other administrators — just what the board of education had in mind when they hired him as assistant superintendent, according to district officials.

The board launched an extensive search for an assistant superintendent in 2007 when Saurer moved from his position as director of educational services to interim superintendent and then to superintendent. At that time, the board saw a need to create the assistant superintendent position and to staff it with someone they hoped would move into the superintendent’s job when Saurer retired.

“We are fortunate to have an individual who has already proven himself to be a leader within our district,” said Board President Charles Dressler. “As assistant superintendent, Mr. Poe has been able to contribute significantly to the balance of continuing the excellence of the Copley-Fairlawn Schools while maintaining fiscal responsibility. His strong work ethic, along with his established relationships with the community and our outstanding staff, put him in an excellent position to lead our district into the next decade.”

Poe is looking forward to the challenge, he said.

“In all sincerity, I’m looking forward to working with our excellent teachers and staff and a very supportive board,” Poe said.

Poe also said he is pleased to be working with a “very effective administrative team.” Four of the five building principals have been hired since Poe joined the district in 2007. They, along with Robert Whitaker, principal of Fort Island Primary School, make a strong administrative team, Poe said.

One of Poe’s goals is to further communications, not only with teachers and support staff, but with parents and the community as well.

“It’s very important for me and for the administrative team to hear feedback from as many different areas as possible,” he said. “It will make us more effective in the decision-making process.”

Building trust and rapport also are important to Poe, he said.

“I do feel we’re in a good place now, but I’m not blind to the fact that we can improve in every area,” he said. “Ultimately, what we want when students leave here is that they are best prepared for that next step — whatever that step may be.”

Poe said he has worked to increase advanced-placement offerings, established honors science at the middle school and has worked to introduce mandarin Chinese into the district’s curriculum. He also put in place additional tutoring for students who need extra help while keeping an eye toward fiscal responsibility, he said.

As superintendent, he said he hopes to help teachers share their knowledge and expertise with each other.

“So many times we look outside the district for professional development opportunities,” he said. “Many opportunities exist within our community. I hope to share from teacher to teacher and staff member to staff member.”

Poe said he was happy to have worked so closely with Saurer.

“Education is a changing landscape, and Dr. Saurer has worked very hard” for the district, Poe said. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the last three years.” As assistant superintendent, Poe said his normal day in the office is 10 to 12 hours long, but with technology — e-mail and telephone — he estimates he works 60 to 70 hours a week. Weeks with negotiations or evening meetings require more. Poe said he usually arrives at the office just before 8 a.m. after spending most of his half-hour commute from Twinsburg on the phone.

“The phone doesn’t ever stop ringing,” he said.

With 3,400 students in the district and all their families, Poe said he needs to be accessible at all times.

In his personal time, Poe and his family twice a year visit Colorado, where they like to hike. He and his wife, Beth, will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in March. The couple has two children, a 14-year-old son who is a freshman at Twinsburg High School and a 12-year-old daughter who is a sixth-grader at Chamberlain Middle School.

Poe’s other hobby is thoroughbred horse racing. He owns a filly, Proud Melody, who is training in Florida. Poe said he hopes she will be ready to race soon.

Poe earned degrees from The Ohio State University and Cleveland State University. He was an elementary school teacher and has 13 years of experience as a school principal. Much of that experience was in South Euclid-Lyndhurst and Shaker Heights city schools.

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