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Southern Erie County

After more than 40 years in education as a teacher, principal, superintendent and most recently President of Holy Angels Academy, Joan Thomas decided to give retirement a shot. She quickly realized that life was not quite suited for her just yet, and now she will serve as interim superintendent for the North Collins Central School District until June 30, 2014.

Part of the reason Thomas was not ready to retire was because she was unable to walk away from her last job on her own terms.

“Holy Angels closed and it was a terrible shock for all of us,” Thomas said.

Deep down she knew she was not prepared to go into full retirement. From August through November, she gave it a try, but without a place to work each day, Thomas said she felt as if she had “no purpose in life.”

That quickly changed and in a matter of days, she went from semi-retired to interim superintendent in North Collins. She interviewed for the opening the day before Thanksgiving. Over the next couple of days, she visited her daughter for the holiday, was offered the post by the board, who voted the Friday after her appointment to approve the hire, and on Monday was back to work.

Throughout the years, the majority of her career in education was spent in the Orchard Park Central School District. She left Orchard Park in 2010 after a five-year stint as superintendent. Prior to that, she also served the district as a science teacher and middle school principal. Thomas also had a stint as a teacher in the West Seneca School District.

After working in larger schools like Orchard Park and West Seneca, Thomas discovered that despite only having 700 students total from kindergarten through grade 12, North Collins still has one major thing in common with Orchard Park and West Seneca.

“The academics are phenomenal,” Thomas said, noting that North Collins is a National Silver Medal winner, given for academic excellence.

“Obviously it’s much, much smaller than West Seneca and Orchard Park,” Thomas said, adding there are only three administrators on the staff. “You wear many hats.”

Among the areas she helps oversee are the transportation and special education departments.

Despite only being in the position a few weeks, Thomas said she has already experienced something she never has in the past, after having to cancel school for three consecutive days last week due to snowstorms that blanketed the area.

Thomas does not know exactly what the future will hold for her, other than that she is in the interim position until June 30. She is undecided whether she will pursue the position full-time.

“I think it is too early to tell,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, her family will play a large role in helping her decide whether to retire.

“They really want me to spend more time being a Grandma,” Thomas said.

And if her career comes to an end on June 30, then she will be able to leave on her own terms.

Also in Southern Erie County:

A Nativity reenactment by members of the Elma United Methodist Church will be presented at Bippert’s Farm, 5240 Clinton St., Elma at 6 p.m. today, weather permitting. Hot chocolate and cookies will be enjoyed the reenactment in the big barn.

• A swearing-in ceremony will take place at noon on New Year’s Day at the Elma Town Hall, 1600 Bowen Road will be held for incumbents Highway Superintendent Wayne Clark, Councilmen Tracy Petrocy, Thomas Fallon and Supervisor Dennis Powers.

• The Elma Town Board will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Town Hall, 1600 Bowen Road, Elma for the annual Organization Meeting, including appointments.

• The Marilla Town Board will hold its settlement meeting at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 30 in the Conference Room of Marilla Town Hall, 1740 Two Rod Road.

• A swearing in ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day at the Marilla Grill, Bullis and Two Rod roads for new Marilla officials: Supervisor Earl Gingerich Jr., Council members Julie Lathrop and Debbie Beats. The public is welcome. Town Justice David Wyzykowski will officiate.

• Special meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 2 in Marilla Town Hall.

The agenda will include: approval of Highway and Sanitation agreement, partial appointments of Town Attorney Joel Kurtzhalts of Bennett-DiFilippo & Kurtzhalts at a hourly rate of $160; authorizing Payroll Services-Paychex switch from Bene-Care.; appointment of Nussbaumer & Clarke as Planning Board Consultant on an as needed basis; retaining of Kotas and Kotas as Town Accountants for general accounting; and the annual update document and auditing Water Districts 2,4 and 5 per agreement. The balance of appointments for the year will be done at the January 16 meeting.

• At 7 p.m. Dec. 30, a swearing in ceremony by Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard will be held in Wales for incumbents Supervisor Rickey Venditti, Council members Jude Hartrich, Gerald Klinck, Highway Superintendent Michael Zywar, Town Clerk Mindy Eaton and Assessor John Sly. It will take place prior to the Public Hearing on signs followed by the Town Board Settlement meeting in the Community Center, 12345 Big Tree Road.