Whitehall faces new school year after death of superintendent: Dr. Lucas steps into gap


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After the sudden death of Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Brian Hamler, a former superintendent of Olentangy Local Schools is preparing the team for the new year.

Superintendent Brian Hamler died in June from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and Dr. Wade Lucas has stepped in as a temporary assignment from the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio (ESCCO).

Lucas works with schools districts in transition, most recently in Hilliard and Dublin, and he knew Hamler personally.

“The most important…thing I can remember about Brian was his love of Whitehall,” Lucas said. “He was a 1977 grad of Whitehall, went to school here, came back here as a superintendent, and lived and breathed Whitehall. So I think that’s something that’s very different walking into, from replacing a superintendent that is maybe moving on to another district, and one that has passed away.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucas faces the task of bringing everyone back into the buildings safely on day one.

“Given that in the past year and a half, we’ve been in what I call COVID-land, our hope is to open up this school year five days a week, full go, everybody in,” he said. “Obviously that’s contingent upon Franklin County Health. Right now we’re looking forward to getting kids back in full go. I’m sure staff members are looking at the same thing because it’s been a long year and a half. We just want to get back to some type of normalcy.”

This includes keeping a daily eye on the schools’ report cards, working with board members to set goals, and focusing on the qualities of a new superintendent.

“Here’s what I’ve found in my six or seven days in Whitehall: there’s an extreme love and dedication to not only the school system but also community,” Lucas said. “A number of people here in central office are Whitehall grads, they are tied to their community. It is the center of the community. Most of the time you’ll find the county seat is the hub…Whitehall serves the same purpose, it’s a small town in a big city…people have a deep, deep love for this system and want it to do well.”

The community’s dedication to its schools shows at Rosemore Middle School, where there’s a 29,000-square-foot project and maker wing opening this year. This is the result of the 2018 bond issue, and Lucas says it’s typical of the kind of support that the Whitehall community provides to the school system.

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