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East Aurora's next school superintendent will likely come from its next-door neighbor, Orchard Park.

After intensive meetings last week with three finalists, the School Board is leaning strongly toward James C. Bodziak, an assistant superintendent in Orchard Park schools, as its pick to be the next superintendent.

Bodziak, who lost out as one of the two finalists in Frontier's recent superintendent search, rose to the top of 20 initial applicants for the East Aurora post previously held by Howard S. Smith, who left in August to become Williamsville superintendent.

"Mr. Bodziak comes from a school district that we have a lot of respect for -- progressing from a teacher to a principal and administrator for more than 30 years," said Daniel Brunson, president of the East Aurora School Board. "His wealth of experience in a highly respected school district was a major factor."

With Bodziak as East Aurora's choice, a special School Board committee will tour the Orchard Park School District on Nov. 30 to meet with staff and parents from that community as part of the next step in the search process.

The board then plans to meet behind closed doors in a special executive session Dec. 2 to review its committee's report on Bodziak, 52, and then begin working on a contract proposal. Depending on how contract negotiations go, the board could formally appoint Bodziak at its regular Dec. 9 board meeting.

Brunson said the district would like a new superintendent in place by late January or early February. Interim Superintendent Donald Belcer has been serving since Smith resigned.

East Aurora school officials would not hint at a possible salary offer, but the range for the position is considered to be between $120,000 and $135,000. Smith was earning about $126,500 when he left East Aurora.

Bodziak, Orchard Park's assistant superintendent for curriculum and pupil services for the last two years, has also served as a teacher, as well as a principal of the Ellicott Road and South Davis elementary schools.

His 32-year school career in Orchard Park dates from the early 1970s when he was a student teacher at the old Lincoln building and Ellicott Elementary. As a teacher, he was first hired at Eggert Elementary, where he taught for a decade.

In an interview Monday, Bodziak said he was attracted to the East Aurora district because of its strong educational record. "I wanted to look at a district that had the same kind of commitment to its students and education that Orchard Park has had over the years," he said. "East Aurora fit that bill."

Bodziak credited East Aurora for having a strong program of advanced-placement courses and solid support and special-education services. "They really care about student achievement and achieving the learning standards," he said.

The School Board expects Bodziak to live in the district, but Brunson said flexibility can be built into the timing of the move. Bodziak said that it is important for the superintendent to live in the district and be a visible part of the community.


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