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Four candidates apply for MCS superintendent job

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MASSENA - The Massena Central School Board of Education will be going back out to look for more candidates to fill their upcoming superintendent vacancy after they received four applications in their first effort.

In the meantime, two sitting superintendents have expressed an interest in leading the district on an interim basis, and they will be interviewed soon, according to Thomas R. Burns, superintendent of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which is assisting the district in its search.

“They got four applications for the regular superintendent piece. Two individuals contacted my office and said they’d be interested in applying, but only on an interim basis. As of July 1, they would be either retired or free to do that work on an interim basis,” Mr. Burns said.

In a release issued Thursday, Massena Central School Board of Education members said they were hoping to receive more applications for the position, which is currently held by Roger B. Clough II. Mr. Clough, who has been with the district since 1995 as a teacher and administrator, had notified them in June that he did not wish to renew his contract, which expires on June 30, 2013. He intends to officially tender his resignation on or about June 1.

“At this time, the Massena Central School District Board of Education has elected to interview two interim candidates for Superintendent of Schools in early to mid-May,” board members said in last week’s release. “While there were some quality candidates to consider, the Board had hoped to receive more applications.”

They said that, by interviewing interim candidates with prior superintendent experience, “the board will be in a position to secure steady, proven leadership for the district while extending a wider superintendent search into the next school year, to solicit a candidate pool that has a sufficient number of quality candidates that reflect the size and diversity of the Massena community.”

Massena is one of three local school districts that had or is conducting a superintendent search.

The St. Lawrence Central School District initially had 10 candidates apply for the position, and they settled on Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. to replace Stephen M. Putman, who has served as district superintendent since 2005 and plans to retire at the end of the school year. Mr. Vigliotti is currently the superintendent of schools at the General Brown Central School District in Dexter.

The Norwood-Norfolk Central School District initially had 14 applications to replace Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie, who will also be retiring at the end of the school year. They settled on James D. Cruikshank, who currently serves as principal at A.A. Kingston Middle School, Potsdam.

Mr. Burns said he’s not surprised by the number of candidates for the superintendent positions.

“We’ve been struggling to get about a dozen applicants in most places,” he said.

Massena’s recruiting brochure listed the salary range as between $120,000 and $150,000 based on the successful candidate’s experience and training.

The position also offers “an excellent fringe benefit package,” according to the recruiting brochure, as well as a three-year contract with “renewals contingent upon successful performance evaluations.”

But, Mr. Burns said, that might not be enough compared to what other school districts in the state would be able to offer.

“It’s not like we have any hard data. You’re making assumptions when you get a candidate pool like that. I thought the Massena board put a very competitive salary out,” he said.

However, he noted, superintendents in more affluent areas of the state tend to get paid more.

“In St. Lawrence County, we’re usually in the bottom five counties for superintendent pay,” Mr. Burns said.

While that might attract local candidates who realize the area is depressed and the cost of living is lower, it may deter those in other parts of the state from applying, he said.

“I think most of the superintendents I work with have chosen to make the north country their home. They like it. They’re fine with the salaries,” he said.

However, trying to compete salary-wise with other parts of the state “becomes a limiting factor,” Mr. Burns said, noting other positions may pay in the same range for smaller districts.

So, for the time being, the board of education will focus on hiring an interim superintendent to lead the district as they advertise again for the full-time position.

“The board will pull them in the week of the 13th for initial interviews with the board,” Mr. Burns said.

He noted that, in some cases, it’s also hard to find interim superintendents “partly because the educational world has changed so much” over the past few years. Among the changes, he said, are the implementation of the teacher and principal evaluation system, which former superintendents may not be trained in.

“I think Massena is fortunate in a sense if they get firm commitments for the week of the 13th to have at least two sitting superintendents who have been a superintendent for a number of years. It’s an opportunity to bring somebody in who is a veteran,” Mr. Burns said.

That will give them time to work through the transition period in their search for a new full-time superintendent, he said.

“They can extend the search and hopefully get a wider superintendent pool,” he said.

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