Superintendents often pen welcoming letters to the community at the beginning of the school year, but Hamburg’s interim superintendent produced a very different kind of letter.
“Asking for your help...” is written at the top of the letter on the district’s website.
And after last year, who can blame him for reaching out?
It has been a tumultuous time in the district:
A bitter election resulted in a new majority in control of the School Board.
The new board discontinued the district’s involvement in a lawsuit filed against a teacher, former teacher and a board member. Hamburg was rebuffed when it went to court as part of that law suit to find out the identity of an anonymous blogger critical of the administration.
A late agreement on a teacher evaluation plan cost the district $470,000 in state aid last school year, and another $620,000 is in jeopardy this year.
Superintendent Steven Achramovitch abruptly resigned right before the new board took office July 1.
Enter Richard E. Jetter, assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Technology who was appointed interim superintendent last month.
Starting his third year with the district, he has been completing many of his human resources duties as well as the superintendent’s job. While one of his biggest challenges is dealing with the loss of state aid, the most difficult one might be trying to heal bitter divisions within the district.
He said the letter came about as he was thinking of how he should function in the district.
“I find that in an organization that has been experiencing what we’ve been through this year, we need to focus on the positives,” he said. “We obviously get some bad press sometimes. We’re a great school district, we really are.”
The letter says there is a “great opportunity ahead of us in a time of immense change.” It went on to say the community needs to fasten its seat belt during the transition and search for new superintendent. While there always will be disagreements, “successful organizations focus on why they are really there,” the letter says.
“I wrote what I felt would unite us a little bit,” said Jetter, who has served as principal in a North Tonawanda elementary school and assistant principal in a Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda middle school.
Teachers are ready for a fresh start too, said Chris Cerrone, corresponding secretary for the Hamburg Teachers Association.
“The teachers are ready to move on,” he said, adding that the two constants in the district are a community that values education and a “tremendous teaching and support staff” that have made the district great.
“We hope we can continue that and have leadership that can work well with the teaching staff and the community,” Cerrone said.
Jetter came up with six “tenets of positivism:” show mutual respect for all, compliment one another, exude high energy, rely on professionalism, show calmness and listen when under pressure, and savor life. He said the tenets are not unique to Hamburg, and he said he has never even been to a positive thinking seminar.
“They’re just basic things,” he said. “If we can carry those out and do great things for kids, we’re going to have a great year, and people will want to come to Hamburg.”
Jetter said he hasn’t made up his mind if he wants to apply for the superintendent’s job, but he wants to attract a strong pool of candidates.
“I think as human beings we truly want to see people successful. In education, even more so, we want to see the kids be successful,” he said.