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George Batterson is happy to be back in his hometown after his appointment Tuesday night, by a unanimous vote of the School Board, as superintendent of the Tonawanda City School District.

Batterson, a native of the Tonawandas, signed a contract with the district with a $115,000 annual salary for three years beginning July 1.

Batterson currently serves as superintendent of the Clyde-Savannah Central School District near Syracuse.

"I am honored to be able to be the superintendent," he said. "I will do everything I possibly can to work with this community, the school district and its employees to get these children the very best education possible. When kids graduate from the district, I want them to be able to say they're proud."

Batterson, whose late father, George, taught business as well as coached the football and baseball teams in Tonawanda, attended the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda school system while he was growing up. He attended the Brockport State College at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and earned his doctorate in educational administration from the University at Buffalo. His professional career included stints as teacher, guidance counselor and principal before taking on the role of superintendent in the Clyde-Savannah District in 1996.

About 1,200 students are enrolled in the district, a student population about half the size of the Tonawanda City School District's.

The new superintendent said he plans to interact heavily with students and faculty once he starts the job. During the selection process, district focus groups of teachers, students, parents and staff frequently noted accessibility as a key characteristic for the new administrator.

"It's the personal touch that's important in anything we do in life, and I want to be able to bring that here," Batterson said.

Batterson plans to meet with board members during the summer to set district goals and familiarize himself with current administration officials.

Batterson will have little downtime. The School Board hopes to begin negotiating a new contract with the teachers union when he enters the district.

"As soon as I get here, I'll start making contacts with the teachers association," he said, noting he settled two contracts quickly in Clyde-Savannah. "I'm optimistic about it."

Batterson also said he hopes to meet with community leaders and establish relationships with organizations as well as the city government.

The board decided against renewing the contract of the current superintendent, Diana Greene, last June. Greene is being paid $95,000 this year. Despite the $20,000 difference in salary between the two superintendents, Board President Thomas Balk felt the hiring at the higher salary was the right decision in order to stay competitive with other school districts.

"Looking at the response of all the focus groups, I feel we were able to address their concerns, and he will fit right in with the district," he said.

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