The newly downsized Frontier School Board is facing a double-whammy – hiring an interim superintendent and vetting how it wants to search for a new superintendent to replace James C. Bodziak, who suddenly announced last week that he would retire as the leader of the 5,100-student district – all during budget trouble and controversial staff cuts.
It also comes at a time when the board is divided on some issues. There have been many unanimous board decisions, but at times, an emerging three-member minority on the board – consisting of Jack D. Chiappone, Larry Albert and Lynn M. Szalkowski – has been challenging some issues, chief among them, the budget.
“The three of us are very vocal. I’m not a rubber stamp and Larry is becoming the same way, and Lynn is very sharp with figures,” Chiappone said Sunday. “I often supported Jim, but did not on the budget. I didn’t expect him to go, but that was his decision.”
Board President Janet MacGregor Plarr said the board is ready to discuss a search consultant as well as to conduct interviews with two prospective interim superintendent candidates, none of them internal ones from Frontier.
The board, however, is not expected to hire an interim – nor decide what it will do for its search for a permanent leader – until a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. July 25. When it does pursue a new superintendent, board member Thomas M. Best Jr. said he wants to look for someone who wants a long-term commitment.
“I want someone who will lead the district forward and not just for a year or two – someone who can get ingrained in the district and lead us through tough financial times,” he said.
“A few board members think they can do their superintendent search. I’m not of that opinion,” Plarr said Sunday of a board-led search. “We could do a hybrid,” Plarr said, suggesting the use of a consultant as well as an in-house search. “Trying to please seven people is very difficult and I’ve been trying to keep the peace. I’m trying to be a consensus builder.”
A week after Bodziak unexpectedly submitted his resignation, effective Sept. 9, the board also will be talking to Donald A. Ogilvie, district superintendent of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services, about the search process.
Ogilvie said he will review the details of a superintendent search, including discussing the “nitty-gritty things,” such as advertising, contracts and other details. “They will want to know specific people on the radar, and I will talk to them about salary patterns in Western New York and leadership,” Ogilvie said Sunday. “I’ll cover the gamut of everything. It is a difficult time to be looking for a superintendent, because of vacation schedules of prospective candidates, board members and the community. Plus, every seated superintendent is aware of (fiscal challenges) in the next few years.”
But Ogilvie, who has helped guide 35 searches over 16 years, said Frontier should do well. “Frontier is an experienced board and has already completed a successful search just two and a half years ago,” he said. “They want to review the process and their options.”