Lakota Local School District furthers Search for New Superintendent

On June 27th the district, Board of Education, parents, and community members gathered to hear from the top candidates in the search for a new superintendent

Michael Acomb talks to community leaders during meet and greet with the canidates

Colin Kunz, Editor In Chief


Parents and administrators file into the cafeteria of Lakota West High School, ready to form their opinions on the three finalists for Lakota superintendent. In preparation for the new superintendent, the district held a community question and answer session allowing the three candidates 30 minutes each to address a selection of questions compiled from a community survey opened on June 20.

Lakota has been on the hunt for a new superintendent since the resignation of former superintendent Matt Miller in January of the 2022-2023 school year . The search has been narrowed down to three candidates, Jason Spencer, Director of school leadership at Cincinnati Public Schools, Ashley Whitely, a former English teacher at Lakota East, and Current Wyoming Assistant Superintendent, and Michael Acomb, Chief Operating Officer for the Solon City School District.

Each candidate was allotted their own hour-long block of time with the first 30 minutes devoted to answering questions from parents, community members and administrators one on one in the Innovation Hub at Lakota West. During this period, the candidates introduced themselves and interacted with the community.

After their time in the innovation hub, the candidates were ushered into the cafeteria where they stood in front of tables filled with parents and community members. Each candidate had three minutes to introduce themselves before moving onto the Q&A portion.

Spencer, the first candidate to speak, touched on different topics. Spencer boasts experience at three levels of education, teaching at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Spencer also features experience as a principal at three different levels. Spencer also spent time overseeing safety and security for Cincinnati Public Schools.

Jason Spencer speaks infront of the community during Q&A session at lakota west

Whitely spoke next, and discussed her teaching background. Whitely is originally from southwest Kentucky and began her teaching career at Bowling Green High School as an English teacher. From there she moved to Cincinnati, and worked at Lakota East High School as an English teacher as well as assuming administrative responsibilities including discipline and scheduling. After East, Whitely became an assistant principal in the Wyoming School District, eventually being promoted to Principal, then to Assistant superintendent following that.

The final candidate to speak was Acomb, also starting off as a teacher, Acomb has worked his way up to the chief operating officer position of Solon City Schools. Acomb emphasized that at Solon he “wears many hats’ and takes on multiple different roles, including being director of business and personal, curriculum development, curriculum alignment, and also has some experience overseeing technology.

Michael Acomb speaks to community members before Q&A session

Overall, the community has thought the district has done well handling the search. Educator Lindsay Razete spoke positively about the search, “Being able to receive all the notifications, emails, flyers. It’s been very helpful, I think they’ve done a good job communicating.” Razete told Spark.

All of the candidates were asked the same list of questions, and given as much time as they wanted to answer each one. The first question asked was about the teacher shortage in Lakota, and how to prevent that going forward.

Spencer touched on many different ideas such as Lakotas reputation and size, being able to use that as an advantage, as well as working to get the word out to the community, through job fairs and community outreach. He also touched on creating a good team, and making sure teachers felt comfortable when they began their careers.

Whitely spoke about getting out and trying to talk to as many educators as possible. She emphasized being visible to the community, and going to candidates, instead of making them come to the district. She also spoke very strongly about matching teachers to student demographics, and what the students need.

Acomb touched on the fact that most teachers want to get jobs close to home, and that it’s important to bring that mentality to Lakota, and “Capture the heart of its own kids.” He also spoke on how much about Lakota can be marketed to candidates and was open to community suggestions.

Another question posed to the candidates concerned their personal priorities and goals as superintendent.

Community members discuss thoughts after hearing Jason Spencer answer questions

Spencer focused on maintaining the reputation of Lakota. He also mentioned that he wanted to learn as much as possible about the district so that he can get accustomed and productively use his skills. He wants to mix his expertise with the culture of Lakota. He also talked about the importance of keeping the kids at the top.

Whitely’s main priority is the students. She focused heavily on making sure that students are valued in the district. She will make her decisions based on what is best for the students and staff. She values student growth, and making sure that students are learning and achieving while in school. She prioritizes making kids feel successful and understanding the different meanings of success.

Acomb expressed optimism in the potential of Lakota and wants to use that to his advantage. He wants Lakota to lead in multiple educational categories, and expand their success. He also wants to make sure that students feel welcomed, safe, and connected.

Candidates also talked about community outreach, and getting to know the community.

Spencer said that he already has plans for a “coffee with the superintendent.” He wants to use this as a chance to meet the community and allow people to feel comfortable asking questions and discussing concerns. He also said that he is regularly out in the community and is open to talking to anyone anywhere.

Whitely was very big on communication, and says that stems from her English teaching background. Whitely emphasized that there needs to be a steady and continuous “drip of information” being pushed to the community. Whitely wants to give people the information they need to know, and wants to talk about what is happening now and what is happening in the future. She hopes to change the narrative of the communication to be positive and dislikes that information being pushed out is mostly negative.

Ashley Whitely answering a question during community Q&A

Though information cant always be positive which Whitely recognizes. When negative things do happen, it is important to make the community aware and make sure to follow up so that everyone understands exactly what is going on.

Acomb talked about being available to the community and helping people understand he is approachable. He wants people to get accustomed to seeing him at events and know that he can be talked to. He also shared the idea of coffee with the superintendent and having that be a way to communicate with the community. He also talked about wanting to have office hours in the evening where parents could come to him with concerns.

The event was positive for the community to get out and know the candidates, and have a chance to hear them speak. Community member Shantay Adams talked about the importance of the community coming out and being involved. “I think it’s important to be involved, to know what’s going on in the schools or in that industry.” Adams told spark. “I think that’s important. I’m a very involved parent, and an advocate for the parents to get involved and go to board meetings, community meetings.”

Lakota looks to finalize the selection for their superintendent in the coming month. All candidates have provided Lakota with a “90 Day plan” that they will put into action if selected.