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Retirement of principal stirs worry at school

The impending retirement of an elementary school principal has concerned some Amherst parents and started a discussion among Board of Education members on whether a second administrative position should be created at the school.

Alyson Goods, president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, said she attended Tuesday's board meeting after hearing from several parents who were concerned about how the position of principal at Smallwood Elementary School would be filled following the retirement of Barbara Marotto in June.

"In the absence of information, you get rumors," Goods said. "We're worried because we haven't heard anything until now. It's a difficult situation because we have had such an excellent principal, and a new principal is going to have some big shoes to fill."

Amherst Superintendent Dennis Ford said he has researched the ratio of pupils to administrators at Smallwood and compared it with other schools throughout Erie County.

Ford said that one principal oversees about 675 pupils at Smallwood and that only one other school in the county has a larger pupil-to-administrator ratio.

"My research strongly suggests that we are underadministrated at Smallwood," Ford said. "My contention is that Smallwood is deserving of greater administrative resources."

Ford said the district has failed to examine the situation at Smallwood in part because Marotto has done a superb job overseeing the school.

Ford offered several suggestions to the School Board, including creating an assistant principal position or hiring two principals with different areas of expertise, such as an early childhood and an intermediate education expert.

However, he stressed he was not necessarily advocating the board split Smallwood into early and intermediate "houses," as it has done at Windermere Elementary School.

Goods said she has concerns about separating early and intermediate pupils under different administrators but added she would not be opposed to the district bringing in a second administrator, such as an assistant principal.

If the board decides to bring in a second administrator, Ford said, it would be imperative to select two candidates who would be able to work closely together.

He asked the board to take his research under consideration and revisit the issue at next week's board meeting.

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