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School board debates superintendent options

November 23, 2011
WESTFIELD — How to fill the superintendent position — that was the big debate at the last Westfield Academy and School Board of Education meeting.

BOCES District Superintendent Bob Guiffreda will be speaking to the board regarding the process involved in a superintendent search at the board’s rescheduled meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17, but at the Oct. 24 meeting, the board debated the options of hiring another interim, hiring a new full-time candidate or sharing a superintendent with a neighboring district.

When pressed to choose one of the three options, board members Joy Bodenmiller, Francine Brown, Steve Cockram, Steven Reynolds, Tim Smith and Mark Winslow were all interested in exploring the option of sharing a superintendent while Board President Marie Edwards and Board Vice President Tony Pisicoli were both interested in hiring a superintendent just for Westfield. When asked if they would like to hire a full time or interim superintendent if the sharing option does not work out, Bodenmiller, Brown, Cockram, Edwards, Pisicoli, Reynolds and Winslow were all interested in the full time option while Smith was the only one who would prefer another interim.

Reynolds expressed his frustration that what he hears is other board members making assumptions based on experiences from years past and not asking the questions now to see if that is still the case.

“I’m not much into ‘We think’ stuff,” he said. “I want the facts. I want the information.”

Reynolds went on to express his desire to see something new and different instead of following the old patterns.

However, as Bodenmiller pointed out, the real decision which has to be reached first is if Westfield is going to participate in the proposed regional high school, attempt a centralization consolidation or attempt an annexation consolidation as that choice might change which superintendent option is best. Edwards spoke on that point, saying that no matter what option Westfield decides to go with, the culmination of that option will not be for another three years.

“We need to find stability somewhere,” Pisicoli said.

The board then asked the administrative staff for their opinion on the superintendent issue.

“To have an educational leader in this building, steering the ship, is huge,” Business Manger Al Holbrook said, adding that in the next year and a half the district is going to have to deal with the tax cap, two unions negotiating, Race to Top and a budget gap.

“We’re fragile right now,” Secondary Principal Ivana Hite said. “I think we need somebody solid.”

The decision which was reached was that the district will reach out to other local districts to see if there is an interest in sharing superintendents while at the same time moving forward with a search for a full time superintendent.

During public comment, Bob Dyment applauded the board for looking into sharing a superintendent with another school district. Since the board is asking teachers to do more with less, it is time for the board to do the same, he said.

Even though there is not more than one example in New York State of two districts sharing a superintendent, and even though districts might not be interested in sharing superintendents now, Dyment suggested that when searching for a new superintendent perhaps the district should mention up front the possibility of sharing Westfield’s new hire in the future.

He also said the perception of the district trying to save money will go far.

One item on the agenda did not pass a vote of the board as there was not enough detailed information in the description of the action item, according to the dissenters. Brown, Cockram, Reynolds and Winslow all voted against a new business item which would have approved revisions from the Policy Committee for section one of the District Policy Manual. For Winslow, he voted against it because he does not agree with how the process is done and does not think the changes are traceable. For Cockram, he voted against it because he was uncomfortable not knowing what he would be approving.

The board was given a chart prepared by Holbrook and Sauer giving a side-by-side comparison of the districts various organization options, such as centralization, annexation, tuitioning, a regional high school hosted by a school and a regional high school hosted by BOCES. The variables compared included formation, governance structure, process, staff contracts, staffing, community involvement, financial considerations, duration, extra curricular and sports, scholarships and transportation.

Board member Tim Smith wondered what the Reorganization Incentive Aid would be under the regional high school option, but was informed that value is as of yet unknown. In addition, WACS elementary and middle school would receive no aid under the regional high school option since those grades will not be affected.

Board member Joy Bodenmiller asked about staffing in the regional high school option and Sauer responded that, as the bill stands right now, it would be based on seniority. Board president Marie Edwards added that each participating school would decide which teachers it would be keeping for its kindergarten through eighth grade classes and then the rest of the teachers would be eligible for the regional high school.

The board then discussed its

The last week in October was School Board Recognition Week and, on top of a proclamation by Governor Andrew Cuomo, board members received cards and goodies from students as a thank you for all the work the board does. Classes were chosen for board members based on if students were related to a member. Edwards said it put a sparkle in her day.

At the beginning of the meeting, board members and audience members were invited to Ann Odell’s classroom where here students had constructed a portion of the Titanic. Odell’s class had been studying the ship since the second week in September and, as part of the presentation, gave visitors a boarding pass and a quick history lesson on some of the interesting people who had been on board.

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Article Photos

Photo by Jenna Loughlin
Westfield Academy and Central School students Ashley DePonceau, left, and Jesse Rodriguez, right, give a tour of their class’ Titanic ship to WACS music teacher Kent Knappenberger, center, before a school board meeting recently.



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