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By Jennifer Peters
The staff of the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District met in the Adult Learning Center at Niagara-Wheatfield High School Wednesday, Feb. 12, to discuss the search for the new superintendent. Following that meeting was an open discussion with the community at 6 p.m. on what the district predicts in this "expedited" search process.
Howard Smith, who was a previous superintendent of Williamsville, a high school teacher and a basketball coach, organized the meeting with Allan Berry, a former teacher and administrator in the Town of Brockport. Smith and Berry have been acquaintances for 27 years, and they are with the consulting firm working with the board on the expedited search process.
According to Smith, the search process for a new superintendent is normally a 10-month process. However, this time they are only working with a four-month timeline. The application process for the position will close on April 3. From April 29 until mid-May, Smith and Berry will discuss the final candidates with the N-W School Board, and the board hopes to have a new superintendent chosen by July 1.
The meetings were to identify the characteristics the district should look for in a new superintendent. Smith and Berry used the guidelines from the last superintendent search, when current superintendent Lynn Fusco was hired, as a base.
While all of the qualifications and characteristics discussed in the meeting are ideals, Smith said that an educator who demonstrated an excellent understanding of the school's finances was the number one consideration last time.
"I felt confident with that list; I thought it was a nice list," said Maureen Zarcone, a resident of Niagara-Wheatfield and social studies teacher in the Tonawanda City School District. "I thought it encompasses everything: the business aspect, the curriculum aspect and then also the connection to the community.
"(We need) someone who is visible and connected to the community, who has long range plans. You have to work with us to make a better district," Zarcone said.
According to Smith, a superintendent who shows he or she is a visionary leader is an extremely important quality, along with being an effective leader and someone who is not only approachable, but also a distinguished communicator. The most controversial characteristic discussed was if residency in the district should be preference, not a requirement, for the new superintendent.
"It wouldn't negate or say that they are unqualified or shouldn't be hired, as long as they knew that they wanted to make the commitment to be able to be part of this district, and then didn't just work their job and go home," Zarcone said, offering her opinion on the issue.
"I think her (Fusco's) hands have been tied because of the budget constraints and all of that, but my big thing is I want to see Niagara-Wheatfield move forward again," Zarcone continued. "We've constantly been going backwards, cutting this and cutting that, and I know a lot of it had to do with money, but I would like to see us moving in a direction of giving students stuff instead of taking things away."