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New leadership in South Point

Jul. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

SOUTH POINT, Ohio -- Mark Christian, former assistant South Point superintendent and former Burlington Elementary principal, took over the job as South Point superintendent earlier this month.

Christian had been scheduled to take over Aug. 1 as superintendent, but got the job July 1 when Ken Cook left a month early.

"My wife, my sister and my daughter are all teachers," Christian said Monday. "I get plenty of advice. I also see how hard they work. I'm honored and privileged to have the job. We have good teachers here. I'm proud of all of our teachers."

The move led to several other changes in the district. T.J. Howard, South Point Middle School principal, was named assistant superintendent, Sarah Nuckols, the assistant middle school principal got the principal's job and Ben Coleman Jr. was named assistant middle school principal.

A South Point native, Christian worked 13 years at CSX including 10 years as a foreman. He ended up getting his master's when he was laid off from his railroad job. Christian earned both his BA and master's at Ohio University.

He is starting his 22nd year in the school system including nine years as a principal, seven years as assistant superintendent and several more as a math teacher.

While he looks for the school system to get a little more money from the state this year, the district could face the loss of $130,000 in federal funds due to sequestration, Christian said.

"We are looking at a 5.24 percent cut in funds for at risk students, special education students and teacher improvement," he said. The state could help reduce that cut to about 3.6 percent, but the district will have to cover the rest of the cuts, Christian said.

"We've tightened our belt," he said. "We've prepared for this. These positions are where we need the most help. We haven't filled the positions of six people who left. We can't let the cuts stand. We'll have to take money out of the general fund to cover it."

One of the school system's bigger challenges this year will be the third-grade reading guarantee, Christian said. The state also is requiring students next year from kindergarten to the third grade to have reading proficiency or get special help, he said. Getting qualified teachers to teach those students could be tough, he said.

The school district is talking with Ohio University to get a professor to teach the special classes needed to get the required state certification, something that could cost $4,000 to $7,000 for a six-week training program for several hours after the school day.

"We also have to deal with teacher evaluation, another unfunded mandate," Christian said. Since South Point teachers have another year left on their current contract, the district can see how other school systems deal with the problem, he said.

The system also will have to deal with a number of teachers retiring at the end of the upcoming school year due to a change in state retirement regulations, he said. New teachers go through a four-year probation before they can get a five-year certification to continue teaching, he said.