District welcomes new treasurer, bids farewell to superintendent

by Laura Bednar

March 19 board of education meeting

The Independence Local Schools Board of Education hired Jennifer Knapp as treasurer, replacing Eric Koehler, who retires in July.

“We are extremely fortunate that Mrs. Knapp was interested and she said ‘yes,’” said board President Tony Avila.

Knapp was assistant treasurer at Nordonia Hills City Schools for two years and has been the treasurer for Buckeye Schools in Medina County since 2017, according to a press release. She is a multi-year recipient of the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association, the Ohio Auditor of State Award with Distinction and has maintained a favorable Aa3 rating from Moody’s Investor Service.

The release stated she has a Masters of Business Administration from Ashland University and a treasurer’s license from the Ohio Department of Education. She has a Senior Professional of Human Resource Management designation and serves on the board of directors of the Northeast Ohio Network for Education Technology. Knapp is also a member of the national and state Government Finance Officers Association, Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

“I’m excited to become part of a community that has such rich traditions,” said Knapp.

The board approved her three-year contract from Aug. 1, 2024-July 31, 2027.

Superintendent comments

Superintendent Ben Hegedish is leaving his position April 1, and Assistant Superintendent Tom Dreiling will step in as interim. Several staff members praised Hegedish for his work over the past 12 years. Dreiling said Hegedish has made sacrifices, and, while the two butted heads, they also shared laughs.

“Thanks for giving me the opportunity [to be principal] five years ago,” said Independence Primary School Principal T.J. Ebert. “You’ve taught me a lot as a leader, but more importantly you have challenged and pushed back on me as a father.”

Said board member Lynne Laski, “You made a difference with so many of the kids that you don’t even realize.”

Avila echoed this sentiment, saying he hopes the new superintendent continues Hegedish’s decision to know every child in school, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

“It’s been the highlight of my career being superintendent,” said Hegedish, adding that he was grateful for the board’s support of his decision to resign.

Financial update

The district is challenging the county’s valuation of commercial properties White Cap, a building materials supplier on Pleasant Valley Road, and Applebee’s on Rockside Road. Koehler explained that Ohio House Bill 126 limits a district’s ability to challenge property value increases or decreases. An exception is if property is sold for both 10% and $500,000 in excess of county-appraised value. Both properties were recently sold. Koehler said the complaint asks the county to increase the amount of tax revenue the district receives to match the sale price.

In his regular update, Koehler said in the district’s spring tax settlement, real estate collection is up $400,000, but tax increment financing funds – money from designated building improvements or new construction in the city – are down the same amount. He said it could be a one-off incident due to late payments and he will investigate further. ∞