A look back: Aurora gets new mayor in 2012; schools head retires, will be rehired

by Ken Lahmers | Editor Published:

Aurora -- The city experienced a major change in leadership late in 2012, when Council President James Fisher replaced 11-year veteran Mayor Lynn McGill.

And although schools Superintendent Russ Bennett announced his retirement late in the year, he will continue to lead the district for slightly more than three years after the Board of Education adopted a resolution Dec. 17 to rehire him.

Fisher, who served as acting mayor since late August while McGill was out on sick leave, was sworn in Nov. 30 as mayor.

McGill, 83, stepped down for undisclosed medical reasons. In early December, he was named the city's 2012 citizen of the year by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.

After being sworn in, Fisher said he wants to focus on economic development, saying "we want to take it to the next level."

After a suggestion by Councilman-at-Large John Kudley late in the year, Council may consider the possibility of hiring someone to direct economic development activities.

Fisher, 60, began serving as Ward 5 Councilman in 2003 and was Council president for seven years. He will fill out the mayoral term which expires Dec. 31. The election for a new term will take place in November.

With Fisher's departure as Council president, Vice President George Horvat, who is the Ward 4 representative, assumed the presidency, and Kathi Grandillo was appointed recently to fill Fisher's unexpired Council term.

Horvat has been on Council for 22 years.

MEANWHILE, Bennett announced at the Board of Education's Nov. 26 meeting that he plans to retire effective Feb. 28. He officially submitted his letter of retirement at the Board's Dec. 17 session.

He said although he enjoys his daily interaction with staff and student, Ohio's recently passed new pension legislation makes the timing for his retirement compelling.

Bennett, 52, has served in the district for 30 years as a teacher, coach and principal, plus the last eight years as superintendent.

Then at its Dec. 17 meeting, the School Board adopted a resolution declaring its intention to rehire Bennett as superintendent for 40 months from March 4, 2013, to June 30, 2016.

A public hearing will take place Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at Leighton School to allow citizens to provide their comments and input about the rehiring. Bennett's new contract is scheduled to be voted on by the Board of Feb. 25.

Based on an anticipated lower annual salary for the 40-month contract and that the district will not pick up Bennett's additional retirement payment, it is estimated the district will save $125,000 when compared to Aurora's average comparative group contract.

According to School Board President Gerald Kohanski, 14 out of 82 districts in the Greater Cleveland School Superintendents Association have engaged superintendents on a retire/rehire basis.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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