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Norwalk superintendent receives 5-year contract, show of support from most of the school board

Zoe Greszler • Updated Mar 15, 2017 at 9:49 AM

The Norwalk City Schools district has locked up its superintendent to a long-term deal, one that will keep him here at least until 2023.

In a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, the Norwalk school board agreed to give superintendent George Fisk a five-year contract.

Fisk still has one year remaining on the original three-year pact he signed when he joined the district in 2015.

After a lengthy closed-door executive session, the board approved a 2 percent raise, increasing Fisk’s annual salary from $130,000 to $132,600.

“It was part of the initial contract that the board would address an increase in pay (during the contract),” Fisk said.

Not all agreed with Fisk’s new contract.

Board member Steve Linder was unhappy with the contract Fisk asked for — five years instead of three, a contract that will run from Aug. 1, 2018 to July 31, 2023. 

“My reasoning for voting ‘no’ on the contract was because his contract is not due for another year. So you approve a contract early for a gentleman to show appreciation with what they’ve done,” Linder said.

“We're giving him a contract showing our appreciation. My thing is he wants a five-year contract. I said make it a three-year contract with measurable goals and if those measurable goals are met, then we can consider another three years. You work with the board and we work with you. It has to go both ways. As it is, it’s a one-sided street.

“I have nothing against Mr. Fisk,” Linder said. “The thing is, I say, ‘What does the board have to gain from this contract?’ Nothing.”

Linder is concerned about Fisk staying in Norwalk.

“One thing was, as I explained to the board, he was here less than year and he was all ready looking for work,” Linder said.

“He was applying for work in other districts. I tried to explain this to the board but they were OK with it. ... East Palestine gave him a five-year contract in good faith and after one year he was looking for another job. These are the schools that I am aware of: Westlake, Kenston, West Geauga, Fairview, New Philadelphia and Perkins. He did not fulfill his East Palestine contract before coming to Norwalk. Norwalk gave him a three-year contract in good faith. After eight months he was applying for a job in North Canton.”

When Fisk applied for the North Canton City Schools superintendent position in early 2016, Fisk told the Reflector it was an unexpectedly “opportunity to return home.”

Fisk, a 1992 Canton McKinley High School graduate, said his then 5-month-old daughter was only seeing her grandmother “once or twice a month.” He added: “As a family, that’s a hard thing to grapple with,” Fisk said.”

“Being a father has been a life-changing experience,” Fisk said last March. “With the advancing age of my family and the limited number of new openings in Stark County, this was an opportunity I did not feel I could ignore,” he said.

The North Canton job went to someone else, however.

“In good faith, I was still willing to go to a three-year contract,” Linder added. “But there was nothing I could say to the board. It was a one-sided conversation. I kept asking the board, ‘What are we getting out of this five-year contract?’ I was told he has a five-year plan for the district, but it was not shared with me. 

“I feel like someone should be showing good work first. I told the board, in the working world you would have fired this guy,” he said.

“I can’t just vote to be a 5-0 board. I have to answer to my conscience and I’m not a guy to just follow the crowd. ...And I don’t understand why it had to be done tonight. It was like everyone was in a hurry to get this passed.”

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