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Duncan resigns as Norwalk principal, will oversee special education students

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Norwalk High School Principal Robert Duncan is resigning, effective July 31. But he won’t be leaving the district.

The Norwalk school board voted Tuesday to hire him as the director of student services for three years starting Aug. 1. The move is coming with about an $8,000 paycut: Duncan is making $96,627 as principal and will make $88,579 in his new position.

“I’m very excited about this new position. It aligns itself with my personal interests and goals,” Duncan said. “That’s not to say it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. I consulted with my family and prayed a great deal about it.”

Being the director of student services means Duncan will have three main responsibilities: Overseeing special education students, the preschool program and the Electronic Management Information System, which the district uses to communicate demographic information with the state.

Duncan calls the new position “the best of both worlds,” saying he will be helping students and working with many administrators. He said special education is “absolutely” one of his passions and first loves.

He was the special education supervisor for the Huron, Erie, Ottawa Educational Service Center from 1993 to 1995. Duncan was a special education liaison for Mansfield Senior High School from 1988 through 1993 and an adult workshop specialist for Christie Lane School and Workshop in 1983. He earned a bachelor of science in special education from Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in 1987.

Superintendent Wayne Babcanec is pleased with the move, citing Duncan’s previous experience in special education.

“Mr. Duncan requested the change,” Babcanec said before Tuesday’s meeting. “This was Mr. Duncan’s decision.

“He felt it was time for a change,” the superintendent continued. “At this point in his career, he wanted to make a change and take on a new challenge.”

Babcanec praised Duncan’s multiple accomplishments as NHS principal. During Duncan’s tenure, he was in charge of planning the new high school, which opened in 2001, and moving from the old facility (now Main Street School) to the new building. Babcanec also said Duncan revamped the special education program so that teachers and aides are sent into “regular classrooms” to help special needs students instead of having them go to another classroom.

NHS also achieved an “excellent” status designation on the state report card for the 2006-2007 academic year. NHS previously had been designated an “effective” school.

Duncan said he is proud of the well-rounded curriculum at NHS and has enjoyed seeing the students go through four years of high school.

In June 2005, the district suspended Duncan for three days without pay for submitting an inaccurate dire drill report to the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office.

Board member Janet Broz abstained from voting Tuesday. She said later her decision wasn’t out of a personal vendetta, but was about being fair.

“I’m abstaining because I believe that starting at this position at the top of the pay scale is not fair to other administrators within the school district. In my 10-plus years of service on the school board, I’ve never seen this done,” she said while reading a prepared statement.

In mid-March, the board approved Duncan’s three-year contract as principal, along with Norwalk Middle School Principal James Hagemeyer. Broz was the only dissenting vote. She said at the time she couldn’t “in good conscience and faith vote for Mr. Duncan,” noting it was “nothing personal” against Hagemeyer.

Duncan, the high school principal since 2000, joined the district in 1995 as the high school assistant principal. He didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting because he was at BGSU all day assisting with job interviews for potential teachers.

The district posted and advertised the high school principal position starting today.

“I don’t anticipate an interim. I expect great interest both inside the school district and outside the school district,” Babcanec said.

The superintendent wants to hire someone as soon as possible, but is looking for the best candidate.

Paul Hiszem was the full-time director of student services in 2006, when the position was created. During the next school year, he shared the position part-time with Lynn Cole. Both people had retired before taking the job.

“I’d rather have one person in that position than two people who are part-time,” Babcanec said. “It puts Mr. Duncan in an area of specialty. It matches his expertise.”

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