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SC school chief quits

By JOE CENTERS • Jul 15, 2017 at 10:00 PM

GREENWICH — Martha Hasselbusch is out as superintendent of the South Central Local School District.

School board members accepted her resignation Thursday night and approved temporary superintendent John Ruf, supplied by North Point ESC, until an interim or full-time superintendent is appointed by the board, which will begin an immediate search to fill the position.

Hasselbusch resigned with one year left on her contract.

She was given a three-year contract in May 2015 with a 4-1 vote in favor of hiring the former Cleveland-area elementary school principal.

Board president Bob Morgan cast the lone “no” vote, although he declined to say why he opposed the hire.

“Welcome aboard,” he would only say. “We welcome her to South Central.”

The board voted without discussion to hire Hasselbusch to replace David Brand, who left to accept the superintendent job with the New Philadelphia school district.

Hasselbusch’s contract ran from Aug. 1, 2015 through July 31, 2018 at a salary of $93,000 per year.


Opposition from the beginning

Hasselbusch was hired over Ben Chaffee, a former SC superintendent who left to take a job at EHOVE Career Center. There were many who favored re-hiring Chaffee and they were disappointed he did not get the job.

The board issued a statement addressed Hasselbusch’s hiring at that meeting.

“We understand that there are some questions and concerns regarding the hiring of our next superintendent,” the statement read. “It would be inappropriate and unfair to discuss all the details of the interview process that we went through with each candidate.

“We can, however, assure you that an extensive and thorough process took place when considering each of the candidates for superintendent. After our initial round of interviews, we were fortunate to have three very qualified candidates to consider for the position.”

The Reflector met with Hasselbusch and board president Mike West at this time last year as more concerns were leveled against the superintendent.

“We’re very impressed with her qualifications,” West said at the meeting. “We made the right decision with our superintendent. Martha brings a lot of experience and knowledge of curriculum and school law and she brings the structure we need. We feel we made a very good choice.

“The rumor got out that we were dissatisfied with our superintendent and the rumor got out there that we were firing Martha. I heard it from a number of people. We have not had those discussions whatsoever. That’s not even on our radar. We’re not thinking that way. There were some issues when we were talking about the climate of the school in general and we met with the superintendent. ... We’re not looking to fire anybody but what can we do to improve the climate of the school but people took that as we’re firing the superintendent. Until you come to board meetings every week and sit in all of these meetings don’t be sitting there and judging.”

Hasselbusch said she, too, was pleased with her position and did intend to move to the district.

“I can tell you that my perspective and dedication has not wavered in the past year since I was blessed to be brought on by the South Central board of education,” she said. “My husband and I have looked at several properties in the Greenwich and North Fairfield area in the past year. It’s not something I’ve put a timeline on and it’s nothing that I’m trying to rush. ... There are not a lot of property posting in the community which makes it even more challenging in the way of looking for a forever home. But I can assure you my commitment and dedication to the district has not wavered. I’m still making a long-term commitment to the community and to the staff and to the Trojan students.”

Hasselbusch never did move into the disctrict.

The Reflector requested to look at her personnel file at that meeting and there was nothing in it except for some paperwork from when she was hired.


Hasselbusch off the job

It has been awhile since Hasselbusch has been on the job. Rumors she was fired surfaced in early June.

“That’s not my understanding (whether she was fired),” high school principal Thomas Hellickson said at the time. “ She is away from the district right now for personal reasons. That’s my understanding of the situation right now.”

“She has not been fired,” West said. “She called the board and said she had pneumonia and wouldn’t be at the meeting. The board was fine with it and we told her to rest up and take care. Her husband has also been dealing with some health issues.”

Hellickson has been serving as acting superintendent while Hasselbusch has been away.


Student-teacher bonding?

Hellickson was called to the carpet at a recent meeting.

A video surfaced on the Internet of Hellickson and junior Matthew O’Dell wrestling in the school hallway while a group of students were standing around. O’Dell appears to have Hellickson in a choke hold before Hellickson tries to pull his arm off his neck at the end.

The video, recorded on the last day of school by someone who appears to be around the corner, was posted on social media by Brenda Sage, creating a stir among parents, teachers and students while generating more than 2,000 views during the weekend.

“What kind of example is this to our kids?” Sage, a parent, said of Hellickson in her post. “He is supposed to be a leader to our kids. What kind of leadership is this? Not to mention yet again he was too busy to attend EHOVE graduation since he was SC acting superintendent but yet he has time to wrestle kids in the hallway! Had this been two students they would have been taking (sic) to TJ's office for discipline!”

O’Dell was the first to address the board, saying he wanted everyone to understand the context of the video.

“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “It’s just a little fun we have in the hallways sometimes. He had no intention of it. I jumped on him and he was talking to the other teacher while we were doing it, just kind of goofing around. It’s just him bonding with us as students and anybody can do it but nobody gives him the time of day because they’re mad that they can’t do what they want.

“I follow the rules and I don’t have any problems with him. I call him a friend — he’s awesome. I’ll sit there and talk to him all the time. And then you have people who break the rules and wonder why they got in trouble and they hate him. They report stuff like this and blow it out of the water and shout ‘Fight! Fight!’ No — it was just a little fun. We walked away and had fun afterwards. It’s just bonding. It’s not something that he should be removed for because that makes me feel terrible that I got him fired for something I did.”

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