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Can Coming Supt.
Live Up to Liberty?

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — November 15, 2002 – The new superintendent in Liberty will have some hefty shoes to fill.
Residents of the district were asked Tuesday night to give the school board some direction in finding a replacement for former Superintendent Brian Howard, who left last month to pursue another job upstate.
According to Martin Handler, BOCES district superintendent, advertisements have already been sent out to publications across the country. Information packets went to other state school districts and the students in the SUNY Oswego program for superintendents.
Twelve applications were already handed in, and Handler expects up to eight more by the Dec. 6 deadline.
But choosing a superintendent has a number of factors, he said. There will be background checks, numerous interviews with the board, and the advice of staff and parents will be taken into account during the process.
Tuesday night’s meeting was a chance to find out what parents and other community members are looking for.
“This is very important input that will be taken very seriously,” Handler said.
And the people made their point loud and clear.
They want an administrator with people skills. They want a leader with an objective viewpoint about Liberty. They want someone who will support vocational education, the arts and the athletic programs.
They want someone who can lead Liberty out of a troubled financial past, possibly someone with an MBA or central office experience.
Judy Siegel wants someone who’ll commit to living in the district, attend the football games and pay Liberty taxes. She’s heard that from an overwhelming number of residents.
Debbie Nardo agrees.
“We’ve seen from past experience,” she noted. “It’s got to be someone who’s here and can be here for the football games; if your kid lives in Orange County, you’re going to football games there, not here.”
Robin Wagner thinks that’s bizarre.
“We’re cutting our nose off to spite our face,” she said.
But she does think the new administrator should be able to work hand in hand with the faculty.
“We should learn from past mistakes,” Wagner noted. “Our biggest problems seemed to be between faculty and past superintendents, plural.”
According to Handler, applicants were told that residency in the district is strongly preferred. It enables the board to make the residents’ feelings known, he said, without cutting off a pool of possibly excellent candidates who have reasons for not being able to move into Liberty.
But what do other parents want? Someone who has experience in a school system, possibly a teacher who has worked their way up through the ranks and knows how to put plans to work in a classroom. They want a man or woman who is committed to the early childhood programs that already exist in Liberty and someone who can be creative about bringing grants into the district.
Siegel wants someone who will recognize Liberty’s strong musical programs for their strength in education rather than viewing them as “extra-curricular fluff.”
She wants someone with an open-door policy who welcomes comments from faculty and parents alike.
Anne Colman would like to see someone come in with a little respect for those who have been in the district making important things happen for years.
“I would like to see someone come into this district who is able to understand there are a lot of things in this district that are fine, thank you very much,” Colman told the board. “Not everything has to be done anew.”
But what’s most important?
“They should have the children and what their needs are in his or her best interests,” said Donna Gillis.

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