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Three insiders on shortlist for No. 2 city school post

Now that 10 people have shown interest in taking over the Buffalo Public Schools, the School Board must decide whether to stick with someone from within, or consider an outside candidate.

Of the 10 who applied for the job of deputy superintendent, at least three are from within the district. They are: Will Keresztes, associate superintendent of student support services; Genelle Morris, assistant superintendent of accountability; and James Weimer, principal of the Emerson School of Hospitality. Whoever is selected as deputy superintendent is likely to succeed the current interim superintendent, Donald A. Ogilvie, on a permanent basis.

Only one of the three is a district principal, which some board members have said is preferable for filling the position. That suggests Weimer as the front-runner.

Officially, School Board members are staying tight-lipped about whom they might favor.

“I think urgency is what we really need to be looking at at this point,” said board member Jason M. McCarthy, confirming the names of the three internal candidates. “My concern is having someone who knows our situation and has the relationships and the network to be able to instantly take over and transition.”

“There’s nothing really cast in stone right now,” said board member Carl P. Paladino, who earlier this week wanted to immediately fire Ogilvie and have a replacement chosen. “To talk about who we might be interested in would be premature.”

McCarthy, chairman of the board’s Executive Affairs Committee, and board President James M. Sampson will meet with Ogilvie on Friday to decide how to move forward with interviews.

All three of the internal candidates declined to comment.

Members of the board majority made it clear when they posted the job for deputy superintendent that they intend to fill it with someone who will ultimately move into the superintendent spot, despite protests from those in the minority bloc.

Although it would be unusual for Buffalo to appoint a principal to the school district’s highest post, other urban school districts have tried that approach as school boards look for leadership alternatives.

“There are a variety of reasons why a school board would bring in a nontraditional person to fill the position,” said Henry Duvall, a spokesman for the Council of Great City Schools, a national coalition of 67 urban school districts. “Sometimes after they conduct a national search, they realize the best candidate was someone already in the school system.”

Buffalo School Board members have run the gamut of options for how to best move forward finding Ogilvie’s successor, weighing the value of conducting a national search against finding an internal candidate.

Earlier this year, they opted to issue a job posting for a deputy superintendent, with the intention of finding someone who could spend several months working alongside Ogilvie before taking over. Some board members have suggested they want a principal, who has experience with the district, but who has not been tainted by the bureaucracy of the Central Office.

Even now, members of the School Board minority bloc are pushing to conduct a national search, saying the board needs to cast a wider net to find the most qualified person.

The difference of opinion underscores a deeper divide on the board, one that whoever is selected for the job will have to reckon with. Dealing with divisions on the board has been one of the greatest challenges for recent Buffalo superintendents. This time around will likely be no different.

Weimer’s background largely consists of running one of the district’s most successful and in-demand high schools. Each year, Emerson attracts hundreds of students interested in its culinary and hospitality program. The school also posts a strong graduation rate, with 76 percent of students finishing high school in the typical four years. That success comes with a diverse population of students, many of whom have special needs.

Weimer, 53, is a regular host to state education officials and community leaders at the school, which operates a restaurant in the bustling Chippewa district. He is now the driving force behind an effort to create a second site, which will ultimately be located in the burgeoning Larkinville district.

Of the other internal candidates, Keresztes, 51, is the better known, having worked for the Buffalo Public Schools since 1998. He has served as an assistant principal and principal before becoming associate superintendent in 2007. He served as interim superintendent prior to Ogilvie’s appointment. He works closely with community organizations such as Say Yes Buffalo, and his references include a who’s who of education insiders ranging from community educator and former teacher Eva M. Doyle to the former deputy commissioner of the state Education Department.

The least known of the three is Morris, 42, who oversees the district’s accountability department. Her job involves collecting and analyzing testing data to look for trends that might drive district programs.

Ogilvie has said he expects to step down by the end of this school year.

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In the running for post of deputy superintendent

Three of the 10 candidates being considered for the district’s second-ranking job already work for the Buffalo Public Schools

• Will Keresztes, 51, associate superintendent of student support services … has worked for the Buffalo Public Schools since 1998 … was an assistant principal and principal before becoming associate superintendent in 2007 … served as interim superintendent before Donald A. Ogilvie’s appointment.

• Genelle Morris, 42, assistant superintendent in the Buffalo Public Schools overseeing accountability … has held current position since 2006 … has been a behind-the-scenes administrator with little time spent in the public eye.

• James Weimer, 53, principal of Emerson School of Hospitality … head of one of the district’s highest-demand high schools … Emerson has a strong graduation rate, with 76 percent of students finishing in four years … school’s success has come with a diverse population of students, many with special needs.

email: tlankes@buffnews.com