SUPERINTENDENT Campbell board rejects extension for Ciccolelli

James Ciccolelli started in the school district as a high school teacher.
CAMPBELL -- The board of education is laying the groundwork to search for a new superintendent of schools after voting not to renew the contract of James A. Ciccolelli.
This week, board members voted 3-2 not to extend Ciccolelli's $85,931 contract past July 31, when it is due to expire.
"We're just looking to go in another direction," board President Diana Petruska said. "We need to move forward."
Petruska, Vice President Karen Repasky and Dominic Medina voted against renewing Ciccolelli's contract. Board members Robert Dolan and Beth Donofrio supported him.
Petruska declined to discuss specific motivations for the vote.
"It was a combination of things," she said. "I'd rather not get into the personnel aspect of it."
The move was foreshadowed by a vote last year where the board failed to renew his contract for another five years. As with many area school boards, the Campbell board traditionally has given superintendents a year's notice about whether their contracts would be renewed. When the board failed to do so last year, it effectively put Ciccolelli on notice that a change would be forthcoming.
"It doesn't come as any surprise to me," Ciccolelli said.
Ciccolelli's once-solid support on the board weakened once Petruska and Repasky were elected in 2001 over two incumbents who had been allies of the superintendent. Petruska was a political novice when she won election by campaigning to hold Ciccolelli more accountable for pupils' performance in Campbell schools. Repasky was an outspoken critic from the start, going back to her prior term on the board in the 1990s.
Ciccolelli's tight relationship with the former board raised eyebrows on more than one occasion.
Repasky was voted out of office in 1999 after criticizing other board members for hiring Frank Fasline Jr. as a $200-a-day consultant after he retired, under fire, as school district treasurer.
Fasline was taped by the FBI having discussions with mob boss Lenine Strollo about an illegal fund-raising plan for Campbell schools. Both Fasline and Ciccolelli came under criticism for failing to properly inform the board about the fund-raising proposal.
The superintendent emerged from that situation with a nondisciplinary resolution directing him to provide and maintain full information concerning board resolutions.
Ciccolelli later recommended his wife for a part-time position with the school district, and four of the five board members voted to confirm his choice.
When the tone of board politics began to shift with the 2001 election, it occurred with calls for reform from backroom deals and nepotism, and a tighter rein on the superintendent.
Last year, Repasky identified nepotism as a problem, in part, because Ciccolelli is a Campbell native. At the time she said, the district would be better served with a chief executive from outside the community.
"I'm from within the school district," Ciccolelli said Thursday. "I've come up through the ranks in this system. I don't think that's a bad thing. I think that's an asset.
"They claim my nonrenewal is not for job performance, but to this day I have not been given a distinct reason."
Nonetheless, it's the nature of the business that a superintendent serves at the pleasure of the board, and board members are within their rights to make a change, he said.
"I have to live with it," he said.
Ciccolelli, 55, joined the Campbell school district 30 years ago as an English and French teacher. He is in his 12th year as superintendent in the 1,559-pupil district.
The school district has accomplished much during his watch, he said, including building all new schools and athletic facilities at little cost to Campbell taxpayers. Campbell is "the second-lowest-wealth district in Mahoning County," he said.
"We have been financially solvent since the day I walked in here," Ciccolelli said. "I'm very proud of that. I managed this school district with very little money."
"All the programs we've implemented in the district in the past 12 years -- after-school programs, intervention programs, evening library hours, our own cable TV channel, technological advancements, realigning the curriculum so our students can be successful -- I think this district is heading in the right direction."
But three of five board members disagreed.
Now, the board is looking ahead to finding a new superintendent.
The board will work with the Ohio School Boards Association to launch a search for viable candidates, Petrasky said.
"I have no idea on the time frame yet," she said.
Ciccolelli said he'll look for another job in the education field, but for now he plans to work at Campbell until his contract expires July 31.