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After 19 years as superintendent of the Sweet Home Central School District, Dr. James N. Finch said Thursday he will retire Aug. 30.

Finch, 58, has seen the district go through many changes, including the opening of Heritage Heights Elementary School and the completion of a new wing of the high school.

Finch also was at the helm as innovative programs, such as Values Education, were put in place.

He said two of his most difficult decisions were to close two elementary schools and redistrict.

"I'd like to think that I have been the kind of superintendent who is interested in and has kept up on what's happening, in and out of the classroom," said Finch.

"If a superintendent doesn't stay in touch with the students, then it becomes a bureaucracy."

"I can safely say your signature on the quality of programs for the children, your concern for helping provide an environment for them to grow up and initiate meaningful lives is in evidence everywhere in Sweet Home," Board President Edward Cavan.

After a brief executive session Thursday, the board approved hiring Dr. Robert Heller, a professor at the University at Buffalo, as a consultant to coordinate a nationwide search for a new superintendent.

Finch said he has a yearly contract with the district that will expire in August and his agreement with the board does not include any severance pay.

Before coming to Sweet Home, Finch was superintendent of schools in Fitchburg, Mass., a city school system.

He was also an assistant superintendent of schools in Piscataway Township, N.J., and has worked as a district principal in Albany. He began his teaching career in the Mineola and East Williston elementary schools.

Finch is a past president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, director of the Niagara Frontier Industry Education Council, a charter member of the Erie County Substance Abuse Task Force, past president of the UB Community Advisory Committee and chairman of the Erie-Niagara Scholastic Achievement Dinner.

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