Superintendent resigns after 12 years

by Laura Bednar

Feb. 20 board of education meeting

Independence Schools Superintendent Ben Hegedish announced his resignation, effective April 1.

In an email to the community, Hegedish said, “I will be leaving education altogether to pursue a unique opportunity in a leadership role for an Akron-area business. As many of you know who have experiences or loved ones in the business world, sometimes opportunities emerge and erode quickly; such is the case here, and explains my departure date.”

He said his three children have reached an age where having their father present and engaged in their endeavors is a priority.

“The Independence school community has made a significant impact on my life, and together, I believe, we have positively impacted a generation of Independence Local Schools children,” Hegedish said.

The board of education accepted his resignation and appointed Assistant Superintendent Tom Dreiling as interim superintendent until a permanent replacement is found.

Hegedish has been superintendent for 12 years. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the Independence Local Schools are in a great place and very ready for their next leader,” he said.

Said board member Lynne Laski, “I appreciate your leadership, integrity and compassion for the kids.”

Added board member Katie Hill, “I’m proud of you for recognizing your family should always be first.”

Board President Tony Avila noted that Hegedish fought for kids to participate in sports and other activities during the pandemic.

Avila said there are six staff members at Independence certified to step in as interim superintendent, and it was decided Dreiling would cause the least disruption. The board approved the search firm Finding Leaders to locate superintendent candidates.

The same firm is in the process of finding candidates for district treasurer to replace Eric Koehler, who is retiring in July.

Avila said the Educational Service Center is covering the cost for Finding Leaders’ services. Part of the search process includes focus groups made up of staff and community members. Avila said the hope is to conclude the treasurer search by April and the superintendent search by Memorial Day.

“Projects are not stopping, we’re still full-speed ahead,” said Avila. “We’re not just trying to exist, we’re going to thrive.”

Ohio legislative review

Director of Curriculum and Technology Integration Mike Pennington said two pieces of Ohio legislation will affect the district. The first is Senate Bill 288, which requires schools to teach sexual abuse prevention to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The course will include how to seek help in an abusive situation.

Pennington said Second Step offers this curriculum for K-5 students, and the district already uses Second Step for social emotional learning. The district is looking for a curriculum for sixth grade. Pennington added that parents can choose to have their child opt out of the class.

House Bill 33 expands the science of reading through 12th grade and requires teachers to receive more training to meet this need. The science of reading, according to the Ohio Department of Education, informs how students learn to read and write and “does not rely on any model of teaching students to read based on meaning, structure and syntax.”

Pennington said it also includes dyslexia training.

Student council presentation

Independence Primary School student council members Morgan Dombrowksi, Claire Suchan, Grant Intihar, Bobby Lewis and Michael Moxley gave an overview of the group’s programs. The student council has 20 students either in third or fourth grade.

For Veterans Day, student council held a breakfast and recognition event for those who served. Students held a toy drive for William Foster Elementary School in Garfield Heights, and fourth-graders personally delivered the toys. The council also raised almost $900 for the Alison Rose Foundation, an organization that supports amniotic fluid embolism research and medical care for children and mothers.

Public comment

Music booster President Kathleen Vijaywergiya said the high school marching band has been excluded from running the concession stand in the fall, meaning they lose out on profits, which she said ranged from $800-$1,000 per group involved.

She said the music department was involved previously, and she suggested concessions be split between the music boosters and athletic boosters. “I last reached out to the board and administration regarding this issue … on November 8 and have received no acknowledgement or response,” she said. ∞