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Holidays, weather delay Massena Central School superintendent search

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MASSENA - The holidays and nasty winter weather have slightly delayed the Massena Central School District’s search for a new superintendent.

The original time line called for the finalists to make day-long visits to the district and conduct final interviews with the board of education this week. The board was expected to select their new superintendent on Jan. 16, with the new person starting on Mach 3.

But that’s been pushed back a bit, according to Thomas R. Burns, superintendent of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Mr. Burns is assisting the district with the search to replace William W. Crist, who will be begin work on March 10 as superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Syracuse.

“We’re a little behind. We have the initial interviews with just the board scheduled for this week,” Mr. Burns said Tuesday.

Twenty-five candidates had applied for the position by the Nov. 15 deadline. That list was narrowed down in December, he said.

“With the holidays and getting board members together to do the paper screening, we were able to get together and do the screening of candidates just before the holidays. There was really no opportunity to get them (the candidates) in before the holidays,” he said.

Massena Central Board of Education members met in executive session Tuesday for some initial interviews and screening, according to Mr. Burns.

“We had three set up for this initial round. We were hoping to get all that done this evening,” he said.

But, with candidates being local and from outside the region, he said one of them was unable to make it to Massena because of the weather. That, he said, slightly impacts the time line.

“We’re looking at stretching this out a bit. We were hoping to come up with semi-finalists/finalists and move on to the stakeholder groups next week. That’s looking like it might be tough,” he said. “When you’re only dealing with three or however many individuals the board wants to send through the entire process, we’ll expedite that through as fast as we can.”

The deadline they’re facing is Mr. Crist’s departure in March. He had been named the interim superintendent after a search to replace Roger B. Clough II netted four applications. Because Mr. Crist was only able to serve one year as interim superintendent, board members reopened their search process at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. He had retired from the Oswego City School District prior to taking over at Massena Central.

“Bill’s departure is solid. There is no wiggle room there. The board, at the very least, would have to do an appointment resolution, which usually includes salary,” Mr. Burns said.

They would then have to negotiate a contract with that person.

“It’s not like hiring a teacher where they just walk in and get the benefits package all teachers receive. They do a unique individual contract,” he said.

At this point, Mr. Burns said, it appears the candidate will be appointed in February.

“February is looking like it will be as soon as they can do it. It’s not uncommon for boards to do a special meeting to appoint a person,” he said.

They still plan to hold to the March 3 anticipated start date, he noted.

The board is offering a three-year contract with renewals contingent upon successful performance evaluations. The position calls for an initial salary of up to $150,000 based on experience, along with what the recruitment brochures describes as “an attractive benefit package.”

Residency in the district is preferred for the new superintendent.

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