Sep 18, 2013 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles Central School District will soon have only three principals in charge of its four schools.
The district will be consolidating staff and shuffling around administrators starting in February 2014, Interim Superintendent of Schools Judy Pastel announced at the Sept. 17 board of education meeting.
Starting in February, current State Street Intermediate School principal Stephen Widrick will become the district’s kindergarten through fifth grade principal. Widrick will be in charge of two buildings, State Street School (grades three through five) and Waterman Primary School (kindergarten through second grade). The buildings are about one half-mile apart by road and are both a part of the contiguous district campus, being connected by athletic fields.
Current Waterman principal Gary Gerst will take over as the new middle school principal in February relieving former district curriculum coordinator John Harmon, who is filling in for long-time principal Timothy Chiavara, who left for retirement earlier this fall. Pat Brown, the district’s kindergarten through fifth grade English language arts curriculum coordinator, will become the State Street and Waterman assistant principal, while continuing his duties as coordinator.
Shrinking the administration staff by one position makes sense for the district in light of state budget caps and declining enrollment, Pastel said. Eliminating a principal position can help the district save money in a way that will not cut programs and directly effect students.
Choosing Gerst and Widrick for their respective new roles was made easy due their past experiences, Pastel said.
Widrick started his career as a principal in charge of two elementary buildings that were seven miles apart in the South Lewis Central School District.
In a press release from the district, Widrick said that he is ready for the challenge of managing two buildings in Skaenateles. “I have no doubt that Pat (Brown) and I will be able to continue to move the elementary program forward. We both know the staff and we will find a way to utilize the staff in the most efficient and appropriate manner,” he said.
Gerst has experience with the middle school, because he started his career as a teacher there. He later was a curriculum coordinator for Skaneateles before working as an elementary principal in the West Genesee District and now principal at Waterman since the fall of 2012.
Starting in February, the district’s three principals will all be in new roles as Widrick and Gerst join recently-hired Gregory Santoro, who is in his first year with the district as high school principal.
Declining enrollment is a big reason that this downsizing makes sense for the district, Pastel said. The most recent graduating class had more than 140 students while the incoming group of kindergarteners only has about 80 students, a drastic drop in enrollment for a 13-year period, she said.
Though the district has no immediate plans at the moment to combine its two elementary schools into one building, the change to one principal will keep that option open for the district in the future, she said.
“If in 5,6,7 years, if that’s an option that the board of education at that time and the community feels is the appropriate way to go, then yes. What I’m trying to do is build choices and possibilities,” she said.
Board president Kathryn Carlson read a prepared statement at the meeting stating that the board has decided to postpone its search for a new superintendent of schools until the fall of 2014. Judy Pastel has also agreed to stay on with the district as interim superintendent through the end of June 2015. The board hopes to select its new superintendent by February 2015 and have that person be ready to take over by the end of that school year.
The decision comes in light of a number of big changes in the district including turnover of administrators, new state mandates on testing and teacher evaluations, tax caps, reduced state aid and declining enrollment, Carlson said.
“With a relatively new board of education (two new members and two who are just beginning their second year) and new principals and coordinators, the board feels that they need an experienced hand at the helm. Rather than begin the search for a new superintendent amid all the changes already on the table, the board feels it is important that we have some stability during this time of extreme transition,” she said.
Pastel said she is excited to be extended and to continue to work with the district through these changes. “I just loved bringing full-day kindergarten here and there are a lot of other things that I’m very excited about working with the staff and the community on as we go forward,” she said.
Pastel was originally brought to the district for the 2012-13 school year while the board conducted a search for a long-term replacement for the previous superintendent Phil D’Angelo, who left the district at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Despite announcing the final two candidates for the position earlier this year, the board chose to postpone the hiring and extend Pastel through the end of the 2013-14 school year. With this latest announcement, she will soon be extended for a second time.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.