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Retirement announced by two top officials

The region's top-ranked school district is losing its two top administrators after this school year.

Williamsville Superintendent Howard S. Smith and Linda Cimusz, assistant superintendent for instruction, will retire at the end of July.

Smith, who began his teaching career in 1972 and served as Williamsville's superintendent for the past seven years, made the announcement at Tuesday night's School Board meeting after informing his principals late in the afternoon.

"It was a very difficult decision because I like the work so much," said Smith, 61. "Here, you can really have an impact on what happens in kids' lives."

Combined, Smith and Cimusz take away more than 80 years of educational experience from a district that -- like many others across the state -- will be weathering some of its most difficult financial challenges in decades.

Given the stability of the board and its leadership, Smith said, now is a good time to pass the torch.

"The combination of my longevity and what I saw on the horizon made me think this was the right time," he said.

He also said the financial pressures the district will be facing in the coming years had nothing to do with his decision. He began considering making this school year his last in August and reached his decision in December, he said.

School Board President William Freeman called Smith "the dean of superintendents" and said he will be greatly missed. But the search for his replacement will begin immediately. Ads will be placed in national publications by Friday, and the deadline for all applications will be March 11, he said.

Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent Donald Ogilvie will head the search for Smith's replacement.

Smith, meanwhile, said he plans to head the search for Cimusz's replacement and assist his successor by narrowing the field of prospective candidates for his or her consideration.

Smith is credited with maintaining the Williamsville district's status as one of the best public school districts in Western New York, maintaining the district's financial health, improving school facilities and promoting educational technology and teacher training.

He has hired seven principals in his tenure, including all three high school principals.

Smith will continue to live in the area and said he plans to do more college-level teaching and perhaps even return to the district as a volunteer coach.

Reflecting on his career after Monday's meeting, Smith said he finds it hard to believe that he started out as a high school social studies teacher and volunteer basketball coach nearly 40 years ago.

Smith worked as an administrator in the Albany area, Poughkeepsie and the Rochester area before being named superintendent of the East Aurora district in 1997. He became Williamsville's superintendent in 2004.

He also called Cimusz, the district's assistant superintendent for instruction for the past 16 years, "the best instructional leader in New York State."

Applications for her position will be accepted until March 15.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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