COVENTRY TWP. Lisa Blough knows Coventry Schools and has watched the district grow and change as she is half way through her 23rd year with the district.
Blough recently became the first female superintendent for Coventry Schools following the retirement of Russell Chaboudy.
She grew up in the Portage Lakes and her family all went to Manchester Local Schools. She graduated from Manchester in 1990. Her husban, Tom, also is a Manchester graduate.
Blough and her husband have two sons, Jackson, who is in seventh grade and Jake, who is in fifth grade. Both have attended Coventry Schools since kindergarten.
Following high school, Blough went to Ohio University on a full athletic scholarship for softball. She obtained her undergrad in Elementary Education with a minor in Biology.
When it became time to begin her teaching career, she had offers from both Barberton and Coventry. She was already familiar with Coventry and in talking with her friends, they encouraged her to take the position in Coventry.
Blough later went on and to do her graduate work at The University of Akron to obtain her Master’s in Instructional Technology. She then went on to complete certification in the area of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development through the administrative program. Finally, she took additional graduate courses to earn her superintendent’s license.
She began teaching biology and integrated science for three years in Coventry before becoming the director of curriculum & technology for nine years. In this position, she began working with teachers across the district trying to create a more common curriculum that could be used by multiple teachers. At that time, each teacher had their own curriculum.
Blough said while she was in the position technology changed from just having a computer lab, to computers being added to the classroom to eventually laptops.
"You have to have the infrastructure in place to support the technology," Blough said.
With technology advancing at a rapid pace, the district decided to split up the curriculum and technology jobs. She then served as the director of curriculum for an additional five years before taking over as assistant superintendent.
As assistant superintendent, she worked on various projects including human resources, grants, funding and audits.
"If Rusty was gone, I could step in and help without any distraction to the district," Blough said.
Changing learning environment
In the 23 years Blough has worked for the district, she has seen a lot of change. In addition to the changes in technology, the expectations of learning for children, the way teachers are evaluated and the accountability for districts have seen drastic changes. She said there more additional resources now that are put on children and teachers along with a lot of assessments.
"I have no problem with accountability, but there has to be a balance," Blough said.
With all these additional resources comes a cost, which takes more of the district’s funding to help children achieve the needed goals. Now that Blough has taken over as superintendent, she said she does miss being in the classroom teaching.
"My world is very fast paced," Blough said. "There are never two days that are the same."
While Blough is looking forward to the new positions, she says she never imagined herself leading the district.
"Moving into this position has not been my lifelong goal," Blough said.
When it comes to challenges for Blough, she can sum it all up in one word, finances. She said funding and finances impact everything that goes on in the district.
"We can’t have the best resources because of funding," Blough said. "Yet, we are still held to the same expectations as other schools."
In addition to finances, Blough said children and parents are under a lot of stress.
"Children are coming from very stressed environments more than we have ever seen," Blough said. "Parents are stressed and it trickles down."
On top of stress, Blough said the staff really sees a lot of children coming to school hungry. The advancement in social media also has changed the lives of many children and how they function on a daily basis.
Blough calls the transition from assistant superintendent to superintendent exciting and said there are so many amazing people within the community and schools.
"I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world," Blough said. "This is a great place to be."
She understands the controversy over open enrollment in the district, but she wants to put controversy aside and focus on what is best for the students - the youngest community members.
"I care about the district and the kids to a point where I feel like I can lend a hand and help us overcome these obstacles we are facing," Blough said.
One of her short term goals is to have the district removed from fiscal emergency and continue to manage its finances. She also wants to improve the learning experience for students and believes the 31 to 1 ratio of students to teachers is too high. She would like to see that number around 25, depending on the grade level.
Blough also hopes to continue to improve community relations and working with the township trustees.
"They are a great resource," Blough said. "Together, we can make sure the community is moving in a positive direction."
She said there are certainly people in the school district that have concerns considering 1,600 people voted no on the renewal levy in November.
"I also want to change people outside Coventry’s perception of what is going on in the district," Blough said.
Blough hopes to gather feedback on what is giving people a negative perception of Coventry and she also wants to find out why students are leaving the district. Having the programs and options for learning in Coventry is something Blough wants to make sure Coventry has so students don’t leave.
When it comes to open enrollment, Blough is in favor of it, but believes the district does need to decrease the number of nondistrict students.
"Open enrollment is financially beneficial for the district, I do believe that," Blough said.
She wants to manage key entry points for open enrollment to provide a high quality education with reasonable class sizes.
"We are going to look at revenue closely and now that we are becoming more financially sound we want to get to an enrollment size that is most effective," Blough said.