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After a 34-year career in education, Tonawanda City Schools Superintendent Whitney Vantine is moving on to pursue other opportunities.
"There's no one reason necessarily; it was just time to pass off the torch," said Vantine Thursday, two days after he submitted his retirement papers to the School Board. "You come to a point where you think it's time."
Vantine, 57, said he has no concrete opportunities at this time, but he hopes to stay in the education field in a part-time capacity. He will officially retire Oct. 17.
Of his long career in education, 22 years have been spent as an administrator. He started as a physical education teacher in Sharon Springs near Albany, and he soon became athletic director there. He moved to the Royalton-Hartland district in Middleport and finished his administrative course work there, and became an assistant principal.
Vantine first became a superintendent in the Friendship School District in Allegany County. Over the years, he bounced around the state as a superintendent - including a stint in Lewiston-Porter - before coming to Tonawanda in 2008.
Of the five years he spent in Tonawanda, Vantine points to an improved academic ranking as one of his highlights in the district. Tonawanda also put a priority on upgraded technology, such as white boards in classrooms and online summer school courses.
"We've worked very, very hard to increase performance levels," he said. "We've made a lot of changes within the academic structure."
The footprint of Tonawanda has also changed. The former Highland Elementary School closed in 2009, the remaining elementary schools were reconfigured and the voters of the district approved a plan to move Clint Small Stadium to the Tonawanda High/Middle School complex as part of an $11.9 million capital project that will be completed next year.
Vantine has also recommended dozens of staffing cuts over the years to address Tonawanda's falling enrollment and budget shortfalls. While he kept the annual budgets relatively stable, he acknowledged that one of the reasons why the district hired him was to move forward with staff cuts.
"It's never popular, but as we look at our declining student enrollment, we're not growing," he said. "It has to be dealt with. It hasn't been based on intuition or gut feeling, it was based on heavy data."
When asked if there were any moments he could have improved on during his time in Tonawanda, Vantine said not really.
"Even the Highland situation [that] was controversial, but those people in the know would know that it's been talked about for years. It would probably still be talked about today if we didn't take a strong stance."
Following Vantine's retirement announcement this week, the School Board is hoping to have a permanent successor by the time he leaves in October. School Board President Jackie Smilinich said that Erie 1 BOCES superintendent Donald Ogilvie will assist with the search.
"I'm very relieved," Vantine said of his retirement. "I'm leaving on my own terms at my time."