By Gavin Paterniti
For two area school districts, the possibility of consolidating at the administrative level is something meriting further discussion.
Photo by Dave O’Connor
In an effort to keep the public safe, the Village of Westfield Board of Trustees unanimously voted on Monday, July 15, to take steps to secure two decrepit properties by, among other things, boarding up doors and windows. Shown is a former residence at 77 Union St. The other property occupies 41-43 Clinton St.
The Clymer and Panama central school districts are anticipating holding a second joint meeting in the consideration of creating a shared superintendent position. According to the district leaders, both boards of education have expressed interest in moving forward with discussions.
"Our boards will be setting up another joint meeting this summer to continue this complicated process," said Bert Lictus, Panama superintendent. "I think members of the Panama community are willing to look at options for the future, including sharing (a superintendent). I'm sure there are varying degrees of support, but I think most people would agree that we need to be looking at alternative means of doing business in the future."
Karen Moon, Clymer interim superintendent, sent an email to her staff announcing a special board meeting to be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting is for the purpose of committing to move forward with discussions.
"I feel there are more pros to the concept than cons," said Moon. "Clymer has been sharing sports teams for a few years, and will continue to do so. So looking at other opportunities, (such as) sharing a superintendent, is timely. I feel the Clymer community is willing to look at this option, and understand small districts need to consider alternative ways of doing business - for now and in the future."
The decision of the districts to proceed with discussions comes after an initial joint meeting last month between the boards and David O'Rourke, Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES superintendent. At the meeting, O'Rourke outlined the benefits and challenges of a shared superintendent based on his own research.
According to O'Rourke, while neither district has taken formal action in pursuing the proposal, he expects to be hearing something from them within the next month. He has also provided his endorsement of Lictus as the shared superintendent, should the districts opt to undertake the process.
"I think Bert is a logical choice for both districts," O'Rourke said. "He grew up in Clymer, and has been a successful leader in Panama. It's kind of the best of both worlds. From my perspective, that's why this conversation made sense for these two districts and, quite frankly, that's why I agreed to come out and help with it. I think it's a circumstance that's kind of unique in having the right person in the right place at the right time."
O'Rourke reported that, though legislation to legalize a shared-superintendent system was passed in 1981, it is still a relatively new system. He said two-school, shared superintendent systems are rare in New York, and could cause some transitional problems.
On the upside, he said the schools that have already made the switch have reported a savings of $50,000-$60,000 on superintendent salary which, ideally, would be realized without any loss of services. According to a comprehensive administrative compensation report for the 2013-14 school year, which was obtained from the state Education Department website, the salaries paid to the Clymer and Panama superintendents will be $112,200 and $116,812, respectively.
"I want to go on record to say that I don't think that a shared-superintendent system is an ideal system," said O'Rourke, during the districts' joint meeting in June. "But I think districts are forced to contend with it as a possible local option that they have available to them as they try to find solutions to some very difficult, large problems that face the schools."