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Hamburg School Board seeks to move past turmoil

The embattled Hamburg Central School District tried to get back to business Tuesday during its first regular School Board meeting since placing its superintendent on administrative leave.

First order of business: Find someone to lead the school district in the interim and help move past the turmoil of recent weeks.

The board placed Superintendent Richard E. Jetter on paid administrative leave July 23, after he admitted he damaged his own car and filed a false police report that the cause had been vandalism.

At the same time it’s dealing with that controversy, the district has been holding misconduct hearings that could remove School Board member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci from the board. She was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I think that with everything our district has gone through. ... I think our district really needs a little healing time,” said board Vice President Thomas F. Flynn III.

Still no decision has been made about hiring an interim superintendent, but the board huddled with a search consultant and continued the selection process during executive session at Tuesday’s meeting in Armor Elementary School.

The board has a “handful” of candidates it will interview and hopes to select an interim superintendent within the next week or two, Flynn said after the meeting.

Flynn, however, asked the rest of the board to consider keeping the interim – whoever it turns out to be – in place at least 12 months but “probably closer to 18 months” before hiring Jetter’s permanent successor.

He hopes that will give the district the stability it needs right now.

“I agree with you,” said board member Cam Hall. “When your reputation is at its lowest, it’s not a good time to get a candidate.”

The rest of the board expressed similar sentiments and said it needs to take its time when hiring Jetter’s permanent successor.

“My personal feeling is to not even advertise for the position until May or June,” Flynn said of hiring a permanent superintendent. “I think that’s better than trying to rush the decision. I felt we rushed the last one a touch – but that’s water under the bridge.”

The board meeting was attended by more than 50 people, but only three spoke – none of them about the controversy surrounding the superintendent.

Instead, it was members of Teamsters Local 264 – who represent the clerical staff at Hamburg Central – that made the most noise. The 24 clerical employees have been working without a contract for three years, and more than a dozen of them showed up at the meeting Tuesday to ask the board for a new agreement.

In other business, the board set the district tax rates for 2014-15. Taxpayers in Hamburg will pay $35.59 per $1,000 assessed valuation, up $1.68 per $1,000; Eden, $31.47 per $1,000, up $1.67; Boston, $20.35, up 49 cents; and Orchard Park, $35.34, up 84 cents.