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Gault reflects on tenure as Lakewood superintendent

HEBRON – Outgoing Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault, who goes on medical leave status in January before officially retiring in June, said he’ll miss the ability to serve the staff and students.

“There are a lot of great people in the district,” he said, adding that it was an honor to be able to work in the district from which he graduated high school. In fact, Gault was principal of Lakewood High School for three years, before serving as Heath City Schools superintendent for eight years, then returning to Lakewood as superintendent for 10 years.

Mary Kay Andrews, who was chosen as Lakewood’s new superintendent to begin next summer, will serve as interim superintendent beginning Jan. 1, 2015, until her contract as permanent Lakewood superintendent begins Aug. 1, 2015.

Gault said even though he’s retiring, he’d like to stay involved with the Lakewood district as much as he can in the future. “I’m not moving,” he said. “I remain a district resident.”

Gault said he’ll “miss the ever changing climate” of public education when he’s no longer superintendent. “It always made for some interesting days,” he said. Gault said there were a lot of good changes to education through the years; however, “it could also be very frustrating.” Gault said it was tough to try to conform to state mandates when no additional state funding was provided. “It made for some sleepless nights, too,” he said.

Part of the challenge of being a superintendent, Gault said, is trying to maximize every opportunity for student growth, but still operate the district judiciously, “because you’re using taxpayer money,” he said. “Our sole purpose is to educate children, but you also have to be very, very, very frugal.”

There’s quite a difference between being a building principal and a district superintendent. As a principal, “You have one building to focus upon,” Gault said – maybe 650 students and various staff members. As a superintendent, “Now you have four buildings, 2,000 or more kids, bus drivers…so many new things come into play. You just take on more responsibility; it just becomes bigger.”

Looking back over some of the major Lakewood events during the time he was superintendent, Gault said one of the most memorable was the 9.9 mill levy that passed by five votes in unofficial results 2010. By the time provisional ballots were counted, the levy only passed by 34 votes. He said it wasn’t the narrow margin that made the vote so important to him, but rather the “devastation that would’ve occurred (in the Lakewood district) had it not passed.”

Gault also looks back fondly on Lakewood achieving an excellent rating by the Ohio State Board of Education for four years. Prior, the district was rated as continuous improvement. He said achieving the excellent rating took very hard work, but, “staying there is so much tougher,” because the state changes the criteria every year.

Gault is also very pleased to have the district’s solar power system operational. “I certainly didn’t want to leave that resolved,” he said.

After years of enduring hurdles and delays, two solar arrays have been installed on Lakewood property to generate electric power for the intermediate and high schools. Lakewood has a longterm power purchase contract with Solar Planet to purchase solar-generated power at rates expected to be below AEP’s rates.

“Every year we have big events,” Gault said, adding that he enjoys looking over student achievement data. “Academically, we’ve improved dramatically,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished at Lakewood.”

Gault said he has full confidence in the district’s administration and its choice for a new superintendent. He predicts Lakewood’s best years are ahead of it. “I’m so excited for the future of Lakewood,” he said. “I think Lakewood’s in for a really exciting time and a lot of success. It’s really going to be fun to watch.”

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