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Hamburg School Board appoints Richard Jetter to a five-year term as district superintendent

Hamburg Superintendent Richard Jetter
HAMBURG — Hamburg Central School District officials have opted to remove the “interim” tag from Dr. Richard Jetter’s superintendent title, voting during the March 11 meeting to appoint him to a five-year term as permanent school chief.

The move was approved by a board vote of 4-to-2, with Vice President Sally Stephenson and Board Member Catherine Schrauth-Forcucci casting dissenting votes. Board Member Holly Balaya did not attend the meeting.

The measure to appoint Jetter brought a standing ovation from those in attendance, many of whom shouted words of encouragement in support of Jetter.

The contract will pay Jetter $164,000 annually; it was noted that the superintendent had conceded additional sick and vacation days’ worth of pay.

Jetter said that, in addition to his work as superintendent, his duties will include overseeing the district’s human resources department. The now-superintendent’s term took effect immediately and will run through March 11, 2019.

Jetter emerged as the frontrunner from the district’s preliminary list of 19 candidates for the position; officials and audience members cited Jetter’s familiarity with district items – as well as his calming demeanor – as attributes that will help to lift Hamburg out of the turmoil it has endured during the last few years.

Dr. Vincent Coppola, who serves as a consultant with the Western New York Educational Service Council, assisted the school board with the superintendent search.

Jetter joined Hamburg in August 2011 as assistant superintendent for human resources and technology, before assuming interim superintendent duties. Former District Superintendent Steven Achramovitch resigned for retirement, last June. Jetter’s prior, related work experience includes serving as elementary principal in the North Tonawanda School District, as well as interim principal and assistant principal in the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District. He said that the day-to-day issues facing Hamburg have excelled his growth as an administrator.

“The leadership I’ve had to present in Hamburg is in dog years,” Jetter said, with a smile. “It feels like I’m 21 years in. It will take a number of years to get Hamburg on the map publicly as a place that people want to go.”

The superintendent said that he looks forward to helping move the district in a positive direction.

Board President David Yoviene said that Jetter’s performance during the last eight months as interim superintendent has been superb, in the face of adversity.

“This is a wonderful, wonderful day for Hamburg schools,” Yoviene said. “In the end, we chose a guy who can handle the dysfunction. We chose a guy who’s one of us.”

Board Member Thomas Flynn III said that Jetter’s talents are conducive to working in the role of permanent school chief.

“He’s shined in what he can do,” Flynn said. “We’re looking forward to five very strong years in Hamburg, under his leadership.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, local attorney and town resident Daniel Chiacchia noted that the new superintendent possesses youthful enthusiasm in the position.

“This is a great day for the district,” Chiacchia said. “We’ve been a mockery in the community and he’s helped [lead Hamburg]. We should be glad that we’ve got a young superintendent. We could have him for the next 10 years.”

That sentiment opposed the stated thoughts of Stephenson and Schrauth-Forcucci, who each claimed that they did not have enough time to review the superintendent contract, as well as a few other items brought to resolution at the meeting. Stephenson said that Jetter’s annual salary was too much for the district to afford, and added her belief that other candidates for the position were more qualified.

“He’s a nice guy, but doesn’t have the experience of other people we interviewed,” Stephenson said. “We should’ve had a budget freeze like Frontier, so that we couldn’t hand out money like this.”

Other district officials and those in the audience responded that Jetter’s salary is standard for the position, and noted Hamburg’s recent negative public perception. “We need his leadership,” said one man in the audience.

“This contract is very typical of superintendents in the area,” Yoviene said. “We got him cheap.”

The public comment session featured a war of words between Chiacchia and Stephenson, as well as Chiacchia and Schrauth-Forcucci.

Chiacchia cited a recent article that outlined an alleged exchange between Boston Valley Elementary Principal James Martinez and Stephenson, as well as Balaya. The aftermath of that incident included Martinez’s filing an internal complaint of a hostile workplace environment against Stephenson, Balaya, Schrauth-Forcucci and two district employees; Balaya and Stephenson had each stated their fears of Martinez and his presence at meetings.

The attorney spoke in defense of Martinez, and stated that “[Martinez] should get a round of applause,” adding, “He’s one of the few who’s had the courage to speak his mind.”

As Chiacchia continued to speak about other matters, Stephenson grabbed the gavel in front of Yoviene and slammed it in protest, several times.

“They’re trying to intimidate us to keep our mouths shut,” Chiacchia said, referring to Stephenson and Schrauth-Forcucci, the latter of whom stood behind Yoviene, during public comment session. The attorney then asked that Stephenson resign from the board. “This is nonsense. She needs to go now.”

Schrauth-Forcucci had made a motion that public comment be lessened from five to three minutes per speaker, but that motion did not come to fruition.

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