The two finalists in Herkimer Central School’s superintendent search were on stage Monday in the high school auditorium to discuss their qualifications and to answer questions.
Monday evening’s forum was to be followed by a meeting with the district’s board of education Tuesday at which each candidate was asked to present his entry plan if he is chosen for the job, according to Mark Vivacqua, district superintendent of Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES. The board will also take into account the written comments of those who attended the forum when making its decision, he said.
Three finalists were being considered, but Shawn Bissetta, principal of the junior-senior high school in Port Byron, accepted an offer to become the new superintendent at Mount Markham Central School.
Craig Feretti, the first of the two finalists to take the stage Monday, would be returning to familiar territory if he were chosen for the position. Feretti worked as a teacher, coach and adviser in the Herkimer Central School District for some 10 years, the final two as an assistant administrator at Herkimer Elementary School. He served as elementary school principal at West Canada Valley Central School for two years before becoming principal at McConnellsville Elementary School in the Camden Central School District. Feretti completed a superintendent development course in November. “My goal was to look for a superintendent position where I could bring my particular set of skills,” he said.
Robert Miller, superintendent of schools for the Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School District, would be coming to work in the community in which he lives if he is selected. Miller attended college to become a chemist or a physicist, but when he attended graduate school, the only part he found enjoyable was teaching. He pursued a degree in education and became a math teacher in South Kortright and later in Oneonta, where his father had taught. He later decided he could make more of a difference as an administrator and took courses toward that end. Miller went to Cherry Valley-Springfield during a time of transition. When he asked if the board would consider him for the superintendent’s position, he got the job. The business manager had left, so he spent a great deal of time familiarizing himself with the way school funding worked and views the knowledge he gained during that process as one of his strengths. He currently lives in the Herkimer school district and his daughter attends school here.
A panel of residents posed questions to each candidate including the following:
What qualities and skills would make you uniquely qualified for this position?
Feretti cited people skills. “Communicating, working as a team, getting people to work together,” he said. “It’s important to seek input and to bring people and the community together around a goal.” He added he has good organizational skills and is accustomed to being in positions of leadership.
Page 2 of 2 - Miller cited his experience as a superintendent. “I spent my first six months figuring out how the budget worked,” he said. In addition to his experience in school finance, he said he also has experience in curriculum building and has worn a number of hats during his time as superintendent, including filling in as a building principal and observing teachers.
What was a difficult decision you had to make and how was it resolved?
Feretti cited a need he saw to make a change in the way writing was taught in kindergarten when he was at West Canada Valley. Children were being taught cursive, rather than manuscript, writing. He didn’t think this was the best method and he researched the matter and presented his findings to the teachers. “It wasn’t taken well in the beginning,” he said, but he worked with the staff and the change was made.
He also cited a difficult decision at his current school in which a student with a difficult home situation was having problems at school. “We tried every intervention we could think of and I finally decided our school wasn’t the best placement for this student. It was extremely difficult and this was not taken lightly,” he said.
Miller said within the first four months of becoming superintendent at Cherry Valley-Springfield, the H1N1 virus struck. “It was shocking seeing attendance go from 95 percent to 90 to 80 to 70 to 60 and still going lower,” he said. Both students and teachers were affected. While the State Education Department recommended against closing schools, he made some adjustments in the school calendar, negotiated with the teachers’ union and put together a five-day weekend. When classes resumed, attendance was back in the 90 percent range.
What is something you have accomplished and how was it achieved?
Feretti said he is most proud of the improvement in state assessment results in the McConnellsville school. He said many of the children come from low-income homes and in grades 3 to 5, assessment scores were “OK, but not good.” He worked with his colleagues and collaborated with the staff. “It took two or three years, but I’m pretty happy with the difference,” he said.
Miller cited his efforts that resulted in establishing a Science Technology Engineering and Math program at CV-S. He said worked with a talented teacher to get the children into a computer lab and develop and information technology program for pre-kindergarten through fifth grades. He said changes have been made in the schedule to build in 80-minute blocks for children to explore science each week.