In his first significant move as interim superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, Donald A. Ogilvie is recommending that the Board of Education approve the appointment of a former Williamsville administrator as his chief academic officer.
The recommendation to hire Linda L. Cimusz, who has decades of experience overseeing curriculum and accountability at the local and state levels, underscores what Ogilvie says will be the focus during his time at the helm of the Buffalo schools – and could foreshadow his priorities as superintendent.
A large part of Cimusz’s job will be supporting schools as they implement curriculum aligned to the state’s new Common Core standards and assisting them as they identify the best education strategies for improving student performance.
“She thinks systemically and has worked everywhere from the classroom to the state level,” Ogilvie said. “It’s taking those student results and being able to interpret how those results impact our kids in the classroom.”
Ogilvie is bringing Cimusz’s appointment before the board at today’s meeting.
The position Cimusz would fill was previously held by Yamilette Williams, an appointee of then-Superintendent Pamela C. Brown who was ultimately removed from the job because she failed to gain the proper certification. Cimusz’s contract would be for up to two years and include no benefits or provision for termination payments. She would earn a salary of $160,000.
Cimusz, 65, spent 15 years as an assistant superintendent for instruction with the Williamsville Central School District. Before that, she worked in the Syracuse School District after completing Syracuse University’s Urban Teacher Preparation Program. Her work there included time spent as deputy superintendent for instruction. She also oversaw the successful turnaround effort at the district’s Fowler High School.
Cimusz also spent time as a deputy education commissioner in Texas, where she led statewide reform efforts that laid the groundwork for the state’s aggressive push for more accountability in the late 1990s. In some respects, Texas was ahead of the rest of the country instituting accountability programs for schools.
“One of the things we’ve been focused on as a board and a district is how do we increase the quality of instruction,” said School Board President James M. Sampson. “Obviously, she’s got years of experience in helping run districts.”
Since retiring from Williamsville in 2011, Cimusz has worked as the director of academics at Sacred Heart Academy. If approved, her appointment is likely to be the start of a restructuring of the Central Office, one that Ogilvie said will aim to direct more district resources and support into school buildings.
Ogilvie said that does not necessarily mean bringing in additional hires from outside the district, but rather assessing the strengths of administrators and placing them in positions where they can be the most effective.
He and Cimusz also will aim to cultivate new leaders within the district, something that will be key to creating a system that can sustain itself after he concludes his temporary role.
“I would imagine he’s going to be looking at the entire organizational structure,” Sampson said. “The one thing Don’s trying to do is create a group or a cadre of future leaders in the district.”
Supporters of Ogilvie say identifying and developing district leaders is one of the new superintendent’s greatest strengths. Ogilvie, who most recently served as superintendent of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services, was brought in as interim superintendent to spend several years stabilizing the district and preparing it for its next leader.
Today the board also will:
• Consider a new contract with BOCES to offer services to students from East, Lafayette and Bennett high schools.
• Review a proposal by board member Larry Quinn to create a task force to examine district athletic programs.
• Vote on a resolution to hire an outside attorney to assist with teacher contract negotiations.