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Mondanaro makes a mark; Ken-Ton superintendent sets example by agreeing to givebacks in new contract

Say this about Mark Mondanaro. He's no James Williams.

Mondanaro is superintendent of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District. He just agreed to a new five-year contract that will save the district thousands of dollars. In it, he agreed to:

Forgo the district's annual contribution to his retirement plan.

Give up 90 unused sick days.

Increase his contribution toward health insurance premiums to 20 percent from 10 percent, beginning the second year of the contract.

That kind of leadership has become a pattern with Mondanaro. For example, he will be paid $185,602 this year. That is what he was supposed to be paid last year, until he froze his salary. He also paid his own conference-related expenses and the previous year returned a raise he was scheduled to receive.

Compare that to the kind of giveaway that Williams, Buffalo's outgoing superintendent, engineered for his deputy, Folasade Oladele, not to mention his own golden parachute.

It's true that saving thousands of dollars doesn't, on its own, relieve the financial pressures felt by Ken-Ton, a school district with budget of $147 million. But the savings, themselves, aren't the point -- at least, they're not the main point. The value is in the example.

When the Ken-Ton School District approaches its unions for help in weathering the financial storm, it can say that the members won't be alone in giving something up. Yes, Mondanaro makes vastly more than a teacher, but he didn't have to give up anything. He did.

Other superintendents around the region can also be asked by their school boards to consider following Mondanaro's lead. If his example can be leveraged in districts throughout the region, and those district can then persuade their unions to follow suit, the savings could, indeed, be significant.

But perhaps nothing is more valuable than the impact Mondanaro's generosity could have on the students of the Ken-Ton School District. Unlike their peers in Buffalo, these students know their superintendent is taking personal responsibility to protect their educations.

How will that example play out over the years and decades of their lives? What actions will they, then, be prepared to take when they can make a difference for another generation of children -- or senior citizens, or hospice patients, or any other group that depends on funding that is out of their control?

Mondanaro may not have changed the world with his gift to the students and taxpayers of the Ken-Ton school district, but he made a mark on his corner of it. Here's hoping that influence repeats itself many times down the road.

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