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Jamestown appoints WNY’s first gay school superintendent

Tim Mains, a high-ranking administrator in the Rochester School District, has been unanimously appointed by the Jamestown School Board as its next superintendent.

Mains will become the first openly gay school superintendent in Western New York when he begins work Aug. 1 in Jamestown.

Joseph DiMaio, the School Board president, cited Mains’ experience with the new Common Core learning standards, teacher evaluations and other recently implemented state requirements as a major factor in the board’s selecting him this week.

“He has such a presence – he exudes a great deal of confidence without arrogance,” DiMaio said. “He’s got a wealth of experience. He comes from a bigger version of what we are. We’re a smaller city, but we have some of the same challenges that a district like Rochester has.”

Six years ago, Mains was a finalist for the superintendent job in Rochester. In the past year, he has been a finalist in Albany and Binghamton. He said he felt that Jamestown was a good fit for him.

“I came to Rochester specifically because I wanted to work with poor kids, kids who didn’t have a fair shot at life. I believe schools are a path out of poverty,” he said. “I applied to Jamestown because I thought it had a sane board, and I thought it had challenges that juiced me, in terms of working with kids with a lot of challenges.”

For the past year, Mains has served as director of internal school operations in Rochester, a relatively new post that he described as a “quality assurance job,” which reports directly to one of the district’s deputy superintendents.

Before that, he served for more than 10 years as principal of Helen Barrett Montgomery School 50, a 500-student elementary school in Rochester where three out of four students live in poverty.

Mains, 64, spent the first three decades of his career as a teacher, school counselor and staff developer in the Greece School District in suburban Rochester.

He also served for 20 years as a Rochester councilman, starting in 1986, when he became the first openly gay elected official in New York State.

He has always been open with his students about his sexual orientation, he said. “In the ’70s when I began teaching, I made the decision that I would not have my students grow up the way I did, thinking I was the only person like this,” said Mains, an Indianapolis native.

“I wanted my students to know it wasn’t odd or unusual. I made a personal decision to be open about my sexual orientation way, way back when. Not to be in anybody’s face, but to avoid having anyone grow up the way I grew up.”

Mains said he and his spouse, David Gardner, are currently house-hunting in the Jamestown area.

He signed a three-year contract with the district, with a starting salary of $165,000.

Mains has a bachelor’s degree in social studies teacher education from Ball State University; a master’s in school counseling from Brockport State College; a master’s in educational administration from Canisius College; and a master’s in educational leadership from Columbia University. He is currently working on a doctorate from Columbia.