Even though his predecessor left under a cloud of controversy, the new campus principal at Fairview High School and Mayer Middle School said he does not sense morale is down among students in the buildings.
Thomas Russo, who took over Nov. 17 as chief administrator at the middle school and high school, said students have been very accepting of him. Many have stopped to introduce themselves to him, he said.
“It’s been a very warm welcome,” Russo said.
The position of campus principal became vacant when Kevin Liptrap resigned Oct. 5 after he allegedly removed money from student activity accounts without authorization. Liptrap has not been charged with any crime.
Russo spoke to students at a school assembly shortly after his arrival.
“I assured them I had really no concept of how they felt about what had happened, but I would make sure the school year went in the best manner it could,” Russo told West Life.
Russo said he met with student council members and the president and vice president of the high school classes to discuss their expectations.
“I think right now the students need to know that there is some stability and their school year will move on,” he said.
Russo, 57, had retired after serving as principal of Brooklyn High School and Brooklyn Middle School. He said he heard about the Fairview Park opening through word of mouth. He knew Fairview High School building principal Chris Vicha when Vicha did his student teaching at Columbia High School, where Russo had served as assistant principal and principal.
A resident of Elyria, Russo described himself as a hands-on administrator who likes to be around students.
A former social studies teacher, Russo said he encourages his teachers to take risks in the classroom.
Russo said Deitsch instructed him to work on achieving the district’s curriculum and technology goals at the high school and middle school.
Deitsch told West Life he wants Russo to be a solid, consistent administrator who works well with the staff, students and the community.
“In my reference checks on Tom, I heard time and again that he was a people person who was very organized and professional in carrying out his work,” Deitsch told West Life.
Deitsch has said he created the position of campus principal to improve efficiency and increase interaction among middle school and high school teachers.
According to Russo, Superintendent Brion Deitsch made clear the campus principal job was an interim post for the rest of the school year in light of Liptrap’s sudden departure. Deitsch told Russo the position would be posted at the end of the school year and that Russo would have the opportunity to apply.
When asked if he might want to stay on beyond this school year, Russo said yes.
The superintendent told West Life he will make a final decision on whether to keep the campus principal post after his annual review of district operations at the end of the school year.