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The Times
  • Changing of the guard: 5 new superintendents; 5 in 2nd year

  • It’s an important year for area schools, and a lot of responsibility for the people in charge of those districts.

    Feeling the pressure a little more are the area’s newest superintendents who have to adjust to a new job, smaller budgets and all the changes coming out of Albany.

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  • It’s an important year for area schools, and a lot of responsibility for the people in charge of those districts.
    Feeling the pressure a little more are the area’s newest superintendents who have to adjust to a new job, smaller budgets and all the changes coming out of Albany.
    Five districts — Waterville, Remsen, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, Owen D. Young and Mohawk — either have new superintendents or interim superintendents. Another five superintendents in Utica, Clinton, Herkimer, Dolgeville and West Canada Valley are entering their second year on the job.
    All together, a full third of area superintendents are starting or settling in during a year in which the state’s Common Core Curriculum and new teacher and principal evaluation system have to be implemented, and at a time when there are fewer teachers and administrators.
    Howard Mettleman, district superintendent for the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, said school chiefs in his region used to stay on the job a lot longer. Now, it’s around five years, he said, “which is substantially lower than it was years ago.”
    “When you look at them all together you’ve got the financial issue, the tremendous change, declining enrollments all creating pressure on the system,” he said. “You’ve got these three factors and you’ve got new leadership in.”
    New VVS Superintendent Martha Group is no stranger to her district; she’s been assistant superintendent for instruction there for the past 14 years.
    She’s taking command of the district from Norman Reed, the area’s longest serving superintendent.
    “(Reed) is not retired,” Group said. “He’s stepped down from his position into the position of assistant superintendent for finance. This was part of a succession plan we developed with the board of education.”
    Group said the school board wanted consistency, but also had to find some cost savings. Reed was the highest paid superintendent in the area, and forfeited two years of his contract to take the new job and stepped down into a lower pay grade.
    At the end of his old contract he would have made about $190,000. Group’s salary is $155,000, which she said is consistent with starting superintendent salaries. A third administrative position — special education coordinator — was eliminated, saving more than $100,000. Those responsibilities were spread out among other employees.
    Group knows she has a lot ahead of her.
    “I think that education is in a real state of change right now with the new Common Core standards and with what’s happening around teacher evaluation and assessment,” she said.
    Bob Lowry, deputy director for the New York State Council of School Superintendents, said the annual turnover recently in superintendent positions across the state has been roughly 10 percent, partially because people are becoming superintendents later in life.
    Page 2 of 2 - He said the demands on superintendents are considerable.
    “It’s the superintendent who is on the hook right now,” he said. “How do we take the idea the state has cooked up for 700 districts and make it work in our district? I think it’s an exceptionally demanding and difficult time.”
    In the Mohawk Central School District, Interim Superintendent Gene Beirne took over from retiring Superintendent Joyce Caputo two days before the three-district merger straw vote.
    “Last October, I was called by Mrs. Caputo to come in and be the acting elementary principal,” Beirne said. “(The board) thought it was a logical choice (to appoint Beirne interim superintendent) because I know all the teachers and I know a lot of the community.”
    His contract, which runs to the end of June, pays him $500 a day. Mohawk is in the same position as Herkimer, which has interim Superintendent Gary Tutty running the district. Until the merger process is done, the boards of education can’t fill the positions.
    Remsen is in a similar situation. This year, interim Superintendent Carl Klossner took over for Joanne Shelmidine, who had taken over in 2010 and this year became the Westmoreland High School principal. Remsen is in the early stages of considering its own possibilities for merger.
    Klossner also is principal of the elementary school. He said the board hasn’t started looking for a new superintendent yet.
    The recent turnover in leadership positions in Herkimer County is pretty typical, Herkimer BOCES Superintendent Mark Vivacqua said.
    “It goes in waves,” he said. “We had a lot of stability for a long time.
    “We have more stability than most areas,” he added. “Most of the folks who become superintendents around here want to become small-school superintendents. By and large, they’re happy to spend their careers in one place.”

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