Garrettsville – On March 11, 2011, Charles Klamer will celebrate a benchmark which makes him the longest-serving school district superintendent in Portage County. On that date in 1991, Klamer became superintendent of the James A. Garfield School District.
Over the next 20 years, he was to pull the flailing school district from the brink of bankruptcy, oversee a successful tax levy that allowed for the construction of a new middle school and a renovated high school, and guide the student body’s scholastic improvement so the district would reach the state’s highest rating for performance in standardized tests, attendance and graduation rates: Excellent with Distinction… all this despite the fact that JAG schools spends less per pupil annually than all but two other school districts in the county. (In 2005, Klamer retired, then was immediately rehired by the board at a lower salary, saving the district about $90,000 over two years.)
With all of this in mind, and Klamer’s current contract set to expire July 31, the JAG Board of Education has extended the superintendent’s contract for another four years. Klamer’s salary under his new contract will remain at $60,000 annually.
Why didn’t the superintendent simply let his current contract run out, so he could retire, satisfied, with the district at the top of its game? “The people keep me here,” Klamer says with a broad smile. “This is my home; this is my community.”
That was not always the case. Before coming to the Garrettsville area, Klamer was superintendent of the Bloomfield-Mespo School District in Trumbull County for nearly 10 years, following two years there as a middle school and high school principal. “But I had my eye on the James A. Garfield School District all the while,” Klamer sys. “I felt that this district had a lot more potential than it showed from the road, whenever I drove by on State Route 88.”
When Klamer became JAG superintendent in 1991, he arrived on a chaotic scene where a “lack of trust, a lack of transparency, and a lack of acceptance of one another had been the rule. The district was basically bankrupt, having accumulated a lot of debt,” Klamer recalls. The levy had failed eight times already, and was about to go on the ballot for a ninth time.”
“But I’m a rather positive person,” Klamer says. “And I came here with a vision. This was one of the only local school districts remaining with a centralized business community that catered to kids — a roller rink, a bowling alley, Dairy Queen and other family-friendly restaurants, parks, a safe atmosphere, strong churches and civic involvement, and caring parents. I believed in this district from the start.”
Klamer deflects any credit given to him on behalf of the district’s achievements. “”It’s not what I’ve accomplished but what the kids, the community, parents and staff have accomplished since I’ve been here. These people work hard and are committed to excellence.”
Looking toward the next four years, Klamer’s main challenge is to sustain Excellence with Distinction. “It’s one thing to get on top academically. It’s quite another to maintain it!”