The Frontier School District hired an interim superintendent Thursday – retired Lackawanna School Superintendent Paul G. Hashem, a familiar face in school circles.
In a special meeting early Thursday morning, the School Board unanimously hired Hashem, who most recently was interim superintendent at the Grand Island School District.
Frontier will mark Hashem’s fourth interim superintendency. In addition to his stint with Grand Island, he has also served in that post in the Springville-Griffith School District, and several years ago, at Lackawanna, before becoming the permanent superintendent there.
“I’ve had a lot of gigs,” Hashem quipped after being named Frontier’s interim superintendent at a daily rate of $625 for a 90-day contract, a potential total of $56,250. The contract could be extended as the district searches for a permanent new leader.
Hashem said he’s “been doing the superintendent circuit ever since” he retired from Lackawanna in 2008.
Hashem, 67, who lives in Hamburg, is no stranger to Frontier. A year ago, he served as interim principal at Frontier’s Middle School.
Frontier’s School Board factored in Hashem’s time at the district in its decision, said board President Janet MacGregor Plarr. “He was highly regarded by staff, students and parents,” she said. “He was someone acceptable to all members of the board. Everyone is excited to work with him.”
Hashem will begin leading Frontier on Aug. 26, to allow for transition time with outgoing Superintendent James C. Bodziak. Bodziak announced his unexpected retirement earlier this month and plans to leave by Sept. 9. “When I do take over, I want to hit the ground running and know the drill,” Hashem said.
Hashem is acutely aware of the fiscal challenges facing Frontier.“The first thing is that I must meet and chat with the central office and all staff,” he said. “I want to get up to speed on the 2013-14 budget, and whether we need to look at cutting back now, prior to fall.”
Asked what he meant by that, Hashem said Frontier, like many other districts, might have to consider a spending freeze. He did not say whether any staff positions that were cut in the budget will be restored by fall, as some have been hoping. Instead, he speculated that if any staff changes occur, that would likely be in the works before he takes over.
“I really want to set the foundation for the new superintendent, and then I want to look at the 2014-15 preliminary budget with the board and see what our reserves look like, and fund balance,” Hashem said, adding that he also wants to review the ongoing capital project.
Hashem understands the clout that a district the size of Frontier, with 5,000 students and about 1,000 employees, carries. “I’d like to see Frontier do a search for someone who will be here a little longer for the district and board,” he said. “I don’t think they should rush the search. There are sitting and aspiring superintendents who can do a credible job.”
“Because Frontier has a good reputation and is one of the premier districts in Western New York, I think it would be someplace someone would say, ‘That would be a district I’d like to work in,’ ” Hashem said.
After hiring Hashem on Thursday morning, board members went into an executive session that lasted for more than an hour to interview retired Williamsville School Superintendent Howard Smith as a potential search consultant.
Smith now works as an associate with School Leadership, a regional search firm based in Malverne. He recently worked as a consultant for the Niagara Wheatfield School District in its superintendent search.
“We had a nice conversation. We’ll see,” Smith said after meeting with the board.
Also in the running as a potential search consultant is Donald A. Ogilvie, district superintendent of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Ogilvie met with the board privately last week.
Frontier has indicated it may hire a search consultant at its Aug. 6 board meeting.