Robert Guiffreda will break from his deep roots in Chautauqua County next month when he becomes the superintendent of the Frontier School District.
Frontier School Board members said their unanimous decision to appoint him Tuesday had been cemented when four of them visited Southwestern and talked to nearly 30 people.
"It was overwhelmingly resounding that he's a very caring, trusting, positive person who loves his family, loves his community," said Gerald Baldelli, one of the board members who visited the Jamestown-area district.
Even the waitress at Applebee's gave a thumbs-up.
"She said she didn't live in the district," Baldelli told Guiffreda. "But she said if she had children, she'd move back into the district, because she'd had you as a teacher."
Board President Marianne Tomani cited Guiffreda's reputation for honesty and integrity.
"He has a sincere passion for students and educational excellence," she said.
A product of Panama schools in Chautauqua County, Guiffreda, 49, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Fredonia State College. He began his career as a physics and math teacher at Southwestern. After two decades in the classroom, he moved into administration in 1996, when he became assistant principal at the high school.
A year later, he moved to Chautauqua Lake Central High School as principal, a job he held for four years before returning to Southwestern. Guiffreda has been superintendent there for the past three years.
During his tenure as superintendent, Guiffreda oversaw completion of a $32 million project for a new elementary school, a move that centralized all 1,700 students at a single campus.
Under his leadership, Southwestern also quadrupled its technology budget and established the first school foundation in Chautauqua County as a means of supplementing income from tax dollars.
But Guiffreda cites his people skills as key to his success.
"Sometimes it's not the things you've done, but the hearts and souls you've touched," he said.
Guiffreda emerged from a field of 18 applicants for the Frontier job. He will begin his tenure Dec. 6 at a salary of $142,500.