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GJSD cautious about filling vacancies

Superintendent search could take up to two years

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education is taking a cautious approach to filling two top administrative vacancies.

The school system may take up to two years before hiring a permanent superintendent. It also may not even look at hiring a permanent principal for Glebe Street Elementary School, which could eventually be closed.

Currently, the district has the two important administrative vacancies — a permanent superintendent and a permanent principal for Glebe.

The school board on Sept. 17 hired Dr. Karen Geelan of Springville, Erie County, as interim superintendent with her contract running through June 30, 2020. She starts next Monday, paid on a $600 per day basis. The board will eventually seek to fill the permanent position of Superintendent Patricia Kilburn. She takes over next week as new superintendent and CEO of the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES District.

At Glebe Street Elementary School, former Principal Abbey North took a job as principal of Loudonville Elementary School in the North Colonie Central School District. The board on Aug. 8 appointed Joyce Caputo as interim principal at Glebe for a salary of $350 per day, during the 2019-20 school year.

Board President Christopher Tallon indicated Wednesday that the district may not be in a hurry to hire a permanent superintendent. He said that even though Geelan’s appointment is only for this school year, that can be modified in 2020.

“Our goal going into this [permanent search] was for approximately two years,” Tallon said. “That’s what we’re still on for.”

He inferred that the Johnstown district — a school system experiencing troubled finances the past two years — is asking Geelan to guide it through this school year and see if her leadership is required past next June.

“With any contract, there’s always a chance to amend it,” Tallon said.

In the case of Glebe Street Elementary School, Tallon said the district feels confident in the leadership of longtime local educator Caputo, for as long as required.

The board is also looking at a lengthy process to possibly close Glebe Street school, effective with the start of the 2020-21 school year. No decision has been made yet. Hiring a permanent principal would be unnecessary during that process, officials say.

“We’re waiting to see what would be upcoming as far as a school closing, potentially,” Tallon said.

Johnstown school district education consultants Castallo & Silky LLC of Syracuse this past summer issued an Enrollment and Capacity Study of the district. That study gave the district two top options for potential financial savings as enrollment continues to decline in the district. Both options call for the permanent closing of Glebe Street Elementary School.

The district will continue to work with its Long Range Planning Committee, others internally and the public to decide whether to close Glebe, but may make a decision by the end of the year.

Castallo & Silky’s first option closes the Glebe building, which currently houses second and third graders. The 19-classroom Pleasant Avenue Elementary School would house grades kindergarten to grade two, while the 21-classroom Warren Street Elementary School would have grades three to five. Sixth graders would be enrolled at Knox Junior High School. A pre-K program would exist in option one, but hasn’t been totally worked out yet.

Option two would have pre-K through first grade at Pleasant, grades two to five at Warren, and again grade six moves to Knox.

Consultants claim staff savings by closing Glebe could net the district a recurring $342,947 savings — a figure that is pushed upward to $355,000 with savings from utilities tacked on as well.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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