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Contract called key in hiring Akron school superintendent

Nailing down the terms of a contract in advance of making a hire is a key element of a successful search for a new superintendent, the Akron Board of Education was advised Wednesday.

The advice came from attorney Karl Kristoff of the district's law firm Hodgson Russ LLP, who is assisting with the search for a replacement for Robin Zymroz, who resigned in July to take a post with the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District. Dennis Ford, retired superintendent of the Amherst district, is serving as interim superintendent.

Kristoff said that before the candidate field is winnowed to two to three finalists, probably by mid-December, "You have to have your act together on what you want in a contract so you can get feedback from the candidates on what they do and don't like."

Kristoff said that way the board can avoid what happened a few years ago when the candidate it decided to hire dropped out when negotiations on a contract fell apart.

He said the board also might want to consider including in the contract a "superintendent performance incentive program." That type of program, which is growing in use by school districts, establishes measurable goals to which a dollar amount or percentage of base salary may be assigned.

The district's consultant on the superintendent search, Vincent Coppola of the Western New York Educational Service Council, said he is being assisted by focus groups representing Akron students, parents, representatives of community organizations, school administrators, faculty and central office staff.

"I want to get a sense of what is going on in the district and the skills they're looking for in a new superintendent," he said.

In other business, the board received a five-year facilities plan from Nigel Pelton, head of buildings and grounds, who said it is "based on safety and health issues."

It includes replacement of the control panels for elevators in the gym and high school, which have required thousands of dollars in repairs; heating and ventilation system upgrades; a chain-link fence behind the gym; an upgrade to the gym lighting to make it more energy efficient; and a canopy over the fuel pumps at the bus garage.

The plan assists the board in preparation of future budgets and research into available grants and state and federal aid.

The board also heard a lengthy presentation from Anthony Panella, Middle School principal and director of curriculum and instruction, on new state guidelines for the Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR, of teachers and principals, and how it relates to requirements of the federal Race to the Top program. Details can be found at engageny.org; usny.nysed.gov/rttt; and achieve.org/PARCC.