WINDHAM — Despite single-digit temperatures and snow coming down, Laura Amero was looking forward to her drive to work on Friday because that was her first day as superintendent of Windham Exempted Village Schools.
And she was excited.
“I didn’t sleep much last night,” Amero said. “I was thinking about what my day would look like now that I am officially on my own.” Amero had been serving as assistant superintendent since August, working alongside Superintendent Gregg Isler, who retired. “I know I can’t predict each day, but it’s a different feeling ... I can actually own the position now and dig my heels in even more as I start to leave my mark.”
Isler’s last official day was Thursday. He held the post since 2011 and spent 32 years in education.
Friday was students’ first day back after two days off due to frigid temperatures.
“I was ready to come back to work and interact with the students and staff,” Amero said. “They’re the best part of my day. It’s nice to have time to get caught up; however, I am a mover.”
She said she likes to watch her teachers teach and their students learn.
“The most rewarding times are when I am in the classroom with the students and see them growing as learners and individuals,” she said.
Amero said one of the biggest reasons why she loves Windham so much is because it affords her the opportunity to still stay connected with the students.
“Our small size allows me to observe in the classrooms and stay involved with curriculum," she said. "Teachers still view me as an instructional leader which is a piece of my job I never want to lose.”
A graduate of Boardman High School, Amero, 34, received a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Youngstown State, where she also received a principal’s and superintendent’s certificate. She taught 10th-grade English for seven years in Mahoning County, first at Campbell High School and then Western Reserve High School in Berlin Center.
After working for two years as a curriculum supervisor at the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, Amero came to Windham in 2015 and began serving as the junior-senior high school principal, a position she held until August of last year when she was named assistant superintendent. Amero said she is thankful the Windham Board of Education created the assistant superintendent’s position to enable her to transition into the position when Isler retired on Jan. 31.
The Board of Education had approved Amero’s appointment as superintendent on Jan. 10, granting her a 3 1/2 year contract, for 260 days per year at a cost of $96,500, effective now through July 31, 2022.
“I shadowed him for a few months and then around late November, early December he started to back off and let me handle everything,” she said, “but I still had him just in case, which I feel like I still do if I have to call him.”
With Amero’s moving into the superintendent’s position, assistant principal Marco Marinucci was promoted to principal and teacher Zack Burns was named assistant principal.
She said she learned a lot working with Isler and she’s build strong relationships with the board members and the district treasurer, Samantha Pochedly.
“I lean on her a lot,” Amero said, adding relationships are important and she appreciates the support she receives from the network of school superintendents in Portage County.
For the remainder of the year, Amero is not planning any changes. Next year she is going to look at curriculum and how the schools can best prepare the students for college or careers after graduation. She said she is also going to look enrollment and how to best attract and keep students. Being a small district has benefited Windham, Amero said, enabling teachers to get to know each other and and their students.
Student population, pre-K through 12th grade, is around 500 students, Amero said. There are approximately 90 people on staff with 54 of them teachers.
“Definitely our strength is our small size,” she said. “Our teachers can talk about any kid at anytime. They know exactly how they learn, how they should be acting so if something is off, they pick it up immediately. Then the team comes in and contacts whoever at home or has a simple conversation with the kid.”
Amero said she believes district administrators, staff and students are like a family and that’s why its hashtag is #Windhamfamily.
“Our teachers get along, everyone’s involved, top to bottom, and that ripples down to classroom instruction,” she said.
Classroom instruction has changed drastically, she said, because of a literacy collaborative framework, new math programs and a ramped-up STEM program.
Class offerings to students have improved, Amero said, because the teachers trust the administrators when they make changes in curriculum. The teachers are willing to try new things, she said.
Along with good relationship with staff and students, Amero said she has standing with the community — even though she’s not a Windham native.
“The community has welcomed me since day one,” she said. “I considered myself an outsider because I’m from Boardman, I live in Austintown ... but I almost feel like I went to Windham.”
Amero said she can’t imagine what if feels like to actually be from Windham because she has a deep sense of pride just working here.
“I love coming to work everyday,” she said. “It’s so easy to come here because of the community, the staff and ultimately the kids.”
Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, firstname.lastname@example.org or @SteveWiandt_RPC.