By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON Though his contract runs through 2013, Sullivan West Supt. Ken Hilton plans to retire at the end of this school year.
“This is my 40th year in public schooling, a career that has provided me joy and fulfillment,” Hilton told the board at its regular meeting on Thursday. “Among these 40 years, the last five have been a high point.
“I’m grateful to the entire Sullivan West school community for the support that you’ve provided me and [my wife] Annie,” he continued, “and indeed, I’m looking forward to serving that community with enthusiasm and commitment through June 30, 2012.”
Hilton added he has no intention of leaving the area, where he and his wife have lived full-time since relocating from Rochester in 2007.
“But I’ll be 64 in July 2012, and in recent months I’ve begun to feel my age,” he related. “I simply don’t have the resilience, the mental and physical energy and alertness that I once had.
“I don’t feel like I’m at the top of my game. So it’s time to go.”
Per his suggestion, the board informally agreed to prepare a request for proposals from consultants who will help the district find a new superintendent.
Board President Mary Scheutzow affirmed that “it will be hard shoes to fill,” as board member John Reggero told Hilton, “You have served this district, this community, along with Annie, with distinction.”
Board member Ken Cohen noted with irony that the two Kens started serving the district on the same day.
“I don’t think there was any doubt you were the right person for this job at the right time,” Cohen told Hilton, then quipped, “You could always run for the board.”
New board member Kathy Meckle acknowledged that Hilton’s good reputation spurred her to run for the board so as to work with him, and colleague Rose Crotty credited the superintendent with bringing SW’s distinct communities together.
Board member Noel van Swol, himself a retired school administrator, provided an unusually grand compliment, calling Hilton “the best superintendent I’ve ever seen in any western Sullivan County district in all my years.”
“We will miss you,” quietly affirmed board member Angela Daley.
Elsewhere during Thursday’s meeting, the board unanimously agreed to bid out the services of a real estate agent to help the district sell its closed Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley campuses.
“We want to find people who’ve had experience in handling these kinds of places,” said Hilton.
“They are unique properties,” Reggero affirmed.
Bids are due on December 19, and the board is expected to meet December 22 to choose both a broker and the aforementioned consultant to find superintendent candidates.
Fields vote again?
SW’s five-year facility plan was adopted by the board 7-2 on Thursday, with Angela Daley and Joan Glase opposed.
They and others had thought the plan was leading to a specific date upon which to hold a revote about finishing the high school’s athletic fields in Lake Huntington.
But Hilton indicated all the plan is good for currently is providing a state-mandated guide for the district.
“What is here is not gospel,” he told the board. “It is a basic outline ... and I guarantee you this is going to change.”
Future boards can modify it all they want, he explained, but Daley, for one, refused to give her “stamp of approval” to a plan with such a nebulous future.
She wanted to talk about the fields vote at Thursday’s meeting, but Hilton said that can be discussed at the board’s next gathering.
Nevertheless, he promised to tell the district’s facilities designer, Arnie Bertsche, that SW is interested in holding that vote next summer.
The plan just adopted lists that referendum as a vote to approve a $2.56 million project to complete the baseball, softball and soccer fields at the high school (including half a million dollars in drainage work), resurface the elementary school’s track and repair the nature/cross-country trail in Jeffersonville, replace the 1994 building’s roof, replace Jeff’s fuel oil tank, and repaint the 1938 building’s windows.
Voters would approve or reject the use of the district’s existing Capital Reserve Fund, which has enough money in it to cover the project’s entire cost.
The plan also foresees another such vote in the summer of 2013 to continue the high school fieldwork, including creating four tennis courts.