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Hamburg School Board urged by BOCES to seek public input in procedural search for school chief

INFORMING THE PUBLIC — Pictured is Don Ogilvie, talking to the members of the Hamburg School Board about the superintendent search. Photo by Steve Dlugosz.
HAMBURG — Erie 1 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services District Superintendent/Chief Executive Officer Donald Ogilvie gave Hamburg School Board members specific steps to follow, during their search for a permanent superintendent.

Ogilvie, a former superintendent at Hamburg from 1989 – 1997 and current resident of Hamburg, gave his presentation during the Aug. 13 meeting of the Hamburg Central School Board. He described his time as school chief in Hamburg as “memorable” and said that “there’s no district I care for more than this one.”

Noting the various problems the district has encountered, due to various funds lost in Annual Professional Performance Review, as well as other negative publicity, Ogilvie spoke about hopeful improvements.

“Pursuing excellence through partnership,” he said. “This is the Hamburg I know.” Ogilvie said that he has served as a search consultant approximately 35 times for Western New York schools. “Let’s return to it.”

Ogilvie noted that Frontier recently hired a search consultant for a fee of more than $18,000, in its quest to find a permanent superintendent, when current school Superintendent James Bodziak retires in September. The BOCES representative described those monies as dollars well spent and noted that this is the typical rate of service.

He added that other necessities in the search process include formulating and utilizing an advisory board comprised of various community members and school officials; advertising for the school chief position through request for proposals; selecting a search consultant; conducting an independent scientific poll that obtains community perceptions, issues, needs and expectations; sharing with the public gathered information and search process/timeline items and appointing a new superintendent, once the search has been sufficiently narrowed down and negotiations have been conducted and finalized with the individual of preference.

He said that this search process generally takes approximately six months. Ogilvie advised that district officials take their time in appointing a leader and properly conduct expected background checks and screening process details. Immediate challenges facing a new school chief would include the usual items, such as upcoming and future budgets, accompanied by state aid limitations, he said. They wold also include dealing with the ever-present common core learning standards implementation. He said that school districts across WNY and the state saw major decreases in students’ assessment scores for 2012 – 2013, following the more rigorous standards set forth as part of common core-aligned standards.

Ogilvie said that the CCLS might be the most controversial legislation put in by state leaders. He added that, because it has taken away much of the local control, “there’s not a lot of wiggle room.” Ogilvie stressed the importance of learning what community members most focus on, especially when planning budget proposals.

Dr. Richard Jetter had been appointed as interim district superintendent during this search, doubling his existing duties of assistant superintendent of human resources and technology. During the board’s July 30 meeting, it was announced that the district was in danger of losing $620,000 in state aid, on top of the already lost $472,000 from the APPR plan’s not passing in January.

District officials would have to formulate a game plan by the end of August, as well as require probable state legislation, to receive the aid increase for this school year.

Such losses had been discovered when district officials checked in Hamburg’s online deposit account, to find the expected state aid amounts unexpectedly withheld. Director of Administrative Services Barbara Sporyz said that Jetter had been meeting with local legal members to discuss ways to avoid losing the additional $620,000 in aid.

In other meeting action, Jetter advocated changing an administrative internship summer position from unpaid to stipend/pay in designation. The board approved the matter in resolution by a vote of 4 – 1, with Board Member Catherine Schrauth-Forcucci’s casting the dissenting vote.

Jetter explained the need for the designation change’s being the increased duties in the position, with rigors’ necessitating completion of two major projects, before the end of summer. He added that previous internship positions within the district have including both paid and unpaid jobs.

The board approved the creation of 3.5 full-time equivalent positions, with 3.0 replacement positions’ being for district teacher aides and a 0.5 position’s being based on student need. Additionally approved was the creation of a 1.0 FTE elementary education position.

The next board meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Armor Elementary School.
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