ELYRIA — Ann Schloss is the new Elyria Schools superintendent, stepping into the leadership role after board members voted Tuesday morning to reassign positions in the superintendent’s office.
Tom Jama, 53, will step down as superintendent and immediately assume the title of assistant superintendent pending his retirement at the end of the year.
Jama, who started his tenure as superintendent in 2015 and is in the second year of a five-year contract, is leaving the position for medical reasons.
Schloss will step into a role she sought years ago in a contentious search for Elyria’s superintendent following the retirement of former Superintendent Paul Rigda.
Tuesday morning’s special board meeting was quick with an audience full of district staff and administrators as well as Schloss’ family.
Schloss delivered her first superintendent’s report, echoing some things she said she has felt for years for Elyria Schools.
“It’s support, love and just the passion to be able to do what I just love to do — for the kids,” she said. “… I do want to acknowledge that you are only as good as the team you surround yourself with and I have been very fortunate to have the team I have had for years and will continue to have.
“There is no place I would rather be than Elyria City Schools and onward we are going to knock it out of the park. … We are a premier district and will continue to be a premier district. I can’t wait to see what comes.”
Jama did not attend the meeting.
Board President Greg Elek read a statement from Jama during the meeting.
“I want to thank to the Board of Education for allowing me to run such a great school district and to now focus on my medical needs,” he read. “I look forward to supporting Ann however I can.”
Jama has been on medical leave for most of November and December and returned earlier this month to a reduced schedule. He will now focus on his medical needs full time.
The decision to appoint from within and award Schloss a nearly three-year contact sans a lengthy executive search is a stark difference from how Jama came into the leadership role years ago.
When Rigda announced his intention to step down, the board started a broad search with the help of the Ohio School Boards Association. Then, after a tumultuous two months rife with controversy over how the school board was selecting the district’s next leader and who that person would be — both Schloss and Jama were in the early running — board members went with Jama.
Tuesday, Elek said the board didn’t think it was necessary to conduct a search because the district had a succession plan and Schloss was at the top of the list.
“We knew we had the person we wanted all the time,” Elek said. “It makes perfect sense now with the new schools and the blueprint we have going forward. We have the strong academic leader that we need.”
In 2017, when Schloss went from director of academic services to associate superintendent, the aim was for Schloss, 52, to assume greater responsibilities in the district.
“It will be a very easy transition for her because she has worked so closely with Tom this past year,” said board member Kevin Brubaker. “The fact that she comes from an academic services point-of-view and worked alongside Tom to drive the district’s master plan and will also work to drive our test scores and the education of our students speaks to why she was the right choice. … I know we made the right choice for the district.”
When reached Tuesday, Rigda, who serves as a consultant on the district’s construction projects and worked extensively with Jama and Schloss before retiring, said Schloss’ appointment is indicative of a smart board.
“It wasn’t an accident. It was a succession plant built over several years,” he said.
Rigda said Jama and Schloss possess different skill sets, each offering the district needed strengths through various periods of growth.
“Tom was instrumental when the time came to pass the bond issue because his popularity with the community,” he said. “Anyone who has one name — Jama — and there is immediate recognition, speaks to the trust and bond one has with the community. … Even when we ran into trouble and it came to be that we were going to possibly only build three schools instead of five and residents said that is not what we want, Tom did everything he could to hold to the original promise. He has had a really great career and earned his respect.”
Schloss has earned her respect, too.
“I don’t think there is a person in Elyria that is surprised that with Tom done with his part that Ann is moving on to do her part for the district,” Rigda said. “… Moving into the associate position 18 month ago, that was by design. Tom knew in any event that he would be looking toward his future and she has long expressed desires of her own.”
Elek said it will be a smooth transition because of time Jama and Schloss spent working together.
“Tom Jama is leaving his mark on this district as an exceptional leader who spearheaded the campaign to replace Elyria’s elementary and middle schools with brand-new facilities, as well as overseeing the progress of the new athletic complex that replaced the historic Ely Stadium,” he said. “Tom, Ann and Paul have worked closely together over the last four years. I’ve been repeatedly impressed with how they’ve worked together to do what’s best for Elyria’s students.”
A veteran educator
Many know Schloss as being the kind of central office administrator who rewrites student curriculum to match convoluted new standards, works to keep the district’s test scores moving upward and secures high-dollar grants.
She’s been with Elyria since 1994 when she was a teacher at the now-closed Jefferson Elementary School. From teacher, she became assistant principal, then principal, director of teaching and learning, director of academic services and associate superintendent since 2017.
It was Schloss who shepherded the district’s transition to new more rigid standards, which meant rewriting curriculum maps and new formative and summative common assessments.
She also is the one who went after and secured a $1.25 million grant from the Stocker Foundation — the largest grant to a single entity in the foundation’s history — that started in 2014 the New Beginnings Project at Franklin Elementary School.
In addition, Schloss also helped to bring about a new educator evaluation program through the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) and was instrumental in providing the groundwork/preparation for Elyria to enter the Ohio Principal Evaluation System (OPES).
Schloss also has been instrumental in the development of planning and construction details for the district’s new master plan, which calls for five new facilities, including three campus sites serving elementary and middle school and two elementary schools.
Schloss assumes the job immediately. Her new contract runs through July 31, 2021, with a base salary of $143,000 and the standard executive benefits package. Schloss made $127,500 as associate superintendent.
Jama will remain available to the district in an assistant capacity through the remainder of 2019.
“Tom will leave a very strong legacy as a leader in our district, as the principal of Elyria High School and then superintendent,” Brubaker said. “He led us through some very challenging few years with important issues on the ballot and just the way he has led the district, we could not have asked for anything more out of a superintendent.”