Friday, October 17, 2003

Her goal: Improve schools

Three Rivers' first woman superintendent intent on top state test rating

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLEVES - It's been more than two months now since Rhonda Bohannon became the first female superintendent in Three Rivers Schools history.

But she is too busy to dwell on that milestone. Instead, the former assistant superintendent for Talawanda Schools in Butler County has been busy canvassing Three Rivers' communities looking for ideas on how the mostly rural district can continue its rise in Ohio's academic rankings.

In the short time that Bohannon has been at the helm, she has been a much more public educational leader than her predecessors, says Hitchens Elementary Principal Don Larrick, a 35-year Three Rivers veteran.

"She is always out in the schools, and then she'll walk down the street to the post office and introduce herself and ask people for ideas on how to make the schools better," he said.

Bohannon, who began Aug. 1 after replacing the retired 18-year superintendent Richard Scherer, is trying to keep Three Rivers improving.

"This is a learning community committed to excellence and I want to build on that," said Bohannon, a 23-year veteran of Southwest Ohio schools, including stints as teacher, counselor, principal and assistant superintendent.

Previously the highest position any woman had obtained in the 2,200-student district was assistant principal.

"A lot of the reason I came here was the reputation Three Rivers has as an up-and-coming school district. There have been challenges but none related to gender. I've been very warmly welcomed."

The district includes Miami Township and the communities of Cleves, Addyston and North Bend. It has risen from an Ohio rating of "continuous improvement" two years ago to an "effective" rating last year, falling just short of the state's highest rank of "excellent."

After almost two decades under the leadership of Scherer, Bohannon said, "people were so accustomed to him but everyone has been very supportive."

"I'm facing the same challenge every superintendent is facing - school funding," she said, adding that the district, which last won voter approval for an operating levy in 2000, will seek a new tax issue some time next year though the amount and timing of the ballot issue have yet to be determined.

The district, which borders the Ohio River in western Hamilton County, was created in 1956 when the previously independent school systems serving Cleves, Addyston and North Bend merged.

Veteran Three Rivers Board of Education President Rich Joesting said, "the board is unanimously pleased with (Bohannon). She has a wide range of experience, including a (doctorate) in counseling and she has extremely strong personal skills.

"We feel we have the right person for the job."


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