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SUPERINTENDENT'S DEPARTURE ROILS DISTRICT

Jack Mann may be gone soon as the superintendent of schools in North Collins, but the little community in southern Erie County may be dealing with the scars left for his departure for some time to come.

The North Collins School Board notified Mann in September that it would not renew his contract when it expired next June 30.

On Thursday, Mann accepted a job as director of special education and support services with the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District, effective in January.

In North Collins, the district's residents have been wondering why a superintendent who oversaw a four-year period in which test scores rose and tax rates stabilized was shown the door.

Mann's departure has cast a shadow over the selection of a successor, as well as friction within the community, including some between former and current board members.

"Our contention is he's done what he's supposed to," said Bob Turnbull, a former board member and spokesman for Citizens for a Free and Independent School Board. "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Turnbull, whose 16 years on the School Board had included Mann's hiring in 2000, questioned the board's leadership in turning Mann into a lame-duck superintendent.

So far, the group hasn't been getting answers, from the School Board or Mann.

Mann said Friday he "wasn't quite ready to retire" and had hoped to spend another five years in the North Collins position, but gave no reason for his ouster.

Shannon Gawronski, board president, and Allene Smith, its vice president, did not return calls seeking comment.

Vincent George, a board member, said he couldn't go into details, but described the decision by all seven board members as unanimous.

The board's majority consists of former district employees, including George, who was forced to retire as an elementary principal in 2000, months after Mann was hired. That decision was part of a restructuring resulting from an austerity budget.

"As far as myself, I've lived in this community my whole life; I've worked in the school system for 40-some years," George said. "I'm certainly looking out for the students and teachers there."

No official vote was taken in a public session after the board agreed in executive session not to extend Mann's contract.

Mann's departure will loom over the search for his replacement, said Richard Timbs, superintendent of Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which frequently is called upon to assist with superintendent searches.

"I've tried to outline for the board how increasingly difficult it is, especially now that they've made this announcement," Timbs said. "The current superintendent is held in high esteem. It makes me very sad.

"When I went to their board meeting, a lot of people were upset by the board's decision. I'm perplexed by it."

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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