GALION — After five years as superintendent of Galion City Schools, James Grubbs officially retired Tuesday. Stepping in to fill his shoes is Jennifer Allerding, who, Grubbs, said is ready to hit the ground running. He said he couldn’t be more confident in handing her the baton.
Grubbs loves the Galion school district and has enjoyed his years building relationships an is proud of the district’s many accomplishments.
“I’ve loved every minute of my time here,” he said.
Although he is leaving in his official capacity, Grubbs said he and his family will continue to live in the district. His wife and he have a daughter, Troie, who will be a junior this school year and it is important to her and them that she graduate from Galion High School.
Grubbs’ journey to becoming superintendent at Galion began in the mid 1980s when he started as a teacher in adult education at Mansfield City Schools, where he later became a high school machine shop teacher and football coach.
In no particular order, Grubbs listed some of the achievements at Galion City Schools in recent years.
One, he said was bringing the staff and administration together. He said shortly before he arrived in April or May of 2014, contract negotiations started for the teachers’ union and they weren’t able to settle until the summer of 2015.
“They spent 14 or 15 months trying to settle a teachers contract with the school district and the union,” he said. “Since then we have settled two different contracts — a total of four with each of the unions — in less than 12 days. We built a relationship with each other and we now have that ‘trust factor.’ We were able to build a trust factor with our membership and our staff. That is one huge positive to district.”
Another academic feature Grubbs pointed out that started recently was the Galion Early College Academy.
He said that it took a lot of hard work to get that in the district. This program allows Galion students to earn an associates degree, while also attending high school classes at the same time. Galion’s program is different in that students don’t have to travel to North Central State College to take college courses. He said Galion became a satellite school of NCSC and students may stay at GHS to take college classes. He said what makes this program even more special is more than 77 percent of the credits taught are taught by Galion teaching staff who have met the requirements that the Ohio Department of Higher Education puts on faculty members.
Grubbs also touted a literacy program that started about four years ago with then-kindergarten students who were third-grade students during the 2019-2020 school year.
“That program has shown that at one point we had 40 percent of our kindergarten students leaving on track in reading,” he said. “Now we’re on track for 90 percent of our kindergarten students.”
He also is proud the district now has a better retention rate when it comes to administrative staff.
“When I started, I would say three-fourths of the administrative staff had two or less years of experience in the city of Galion,” he said. “We had a revolving door of administrators coming in and leaving, coming in and leaving. And being able to hold that consistency for several years, with basically that same administrative team has been a big plus.”
Grubbs said he is fortunate to have worked with the members of Galion’s school board.
“I have a great school board,” he said. “I hear horror stories from other superintendents. Our school board knows their role very well and they do a great job at it and they are a great ear. If they hear something they let you know about it, but they don’t have their own agenda.”
Looking back on the past few months, Grubbs said there were challenging times.
“We have a strong administrative team and a lot of great teachers and staff in general,” he said.
During (the COVID-19) shut down time, Grubbs was proud to point out staff was able to hand out over 70,000 meals to students who needed them, with school bus drivers delivering food throughout the city. Food deliveries took place three days a week and students received two meals each day.
“We gave them enough food for breakfast and lunch for six days,” Grubbs noted “We’re thankful for everyone who came in and did that.
“Overall, I think (the shutdown) went as well as it could have,” he said. “Some things that made it easier for us are that we have a Learning Management Platform … CANVAS. It’s a way to send out lessons, receive lessons and homework. We had already been doing some of that, so I think it was a little easier for us than some.”
Future plans include staying in the education business. Grubbs will become interim superintendent with the Tiffin school district. Originally he was scheduled to be at Galion until the end of July, but the pandemic changed some plans.
“It’s challenging right now for any superintendent in Ohio with all the stuff that’s happening. In my situation, for me to get started up there in August would be very difficult with all the decisions that need to be made here in the very near future, and to avoid any conflict of interest with my position here. I think it’s just best to have a break in employment to eliminate any conflicts of interest,” he said.
“I absolutely love it here,” Grubbs said. “I love the schools. I love our staff, our kids and our community. I feel like our community has changed for the better over the past five years. I have a sense that things are headed for the better. There are just a lot of good positive vibes in the community and that is critical for successful school districts. I’ve always said that your school is the backbone of economic development. You show me a school district that is strong and I’ll show you a community people want to build in. I think we’re putting our district back on the map … in the right direction.”