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The Depew School Board may seek the free assistance of the Erie I Board of Cooperative Educational Services in a search for a new school superintendent in the wake of Superintendent Eugene Hale's announcement this week that he will retire as of Jan. 15.

Board President Gary Stevenson said Thursday it will take some time to assess what the district needs in a new superintendent, but he does not anticipate a problem finding a replacement.

Hale, now in follow-up cancer treatment, has been superintendent since 1991. He announced his retirement in a letter to board members Wednesday and to parents and about 80 teachers at a School Board meeting Thursday.

"I'd like to express my personal sadness," said retired teacher and union officer John Koutsoumpas. "I've worked with and known many administrators over the years, and none stand higher than he."

Hale, 60, who served as a band director and school principal before becoming superintendent, underwent surgery in March for removal of a cancerous kidney. He said that while his prognosis is good, doctors encouraged a lifestyle change for health reasons.

The board also presented an update on negotiations with teachers, who have been without a new contract since June 30.

District officials outlined six key areas remaining from 80 original union proposals: retirement incentive, salary, contract length, special eligibility waivers, health insurance and special-education class size.

Later, union President Joseph Ritter stressed that none of the issues is resolved and that individual items are tied together and must be considered as a whole package.

After two consecutive five-year pacts, teachers are now seeking a six-year agreement in contrast to a four-year district proposal. Both sides agree on a salary increase of 2.5 percent, plus an average 1 percent increment, from 1997 through 2001. However, the union wants a 3 percent base increase for two years beyond that.

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