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Pembroke High principal hired as Elba superintendent

PEMBROKE – Though he’s proud of what his staff has accomplished academically during his tenure as principal at Pembroke High School, Keith D. Palmer said he’s prepared to guide a “smaller ship” as the new superintendent of the Elba Central School District.

The Elba Board of Education finalized Palmer’s appointment at a special meeting Friday morning.

Palmer will be moving from a district with three facilities and 950 students in grades K-12 on the western edge of Genesee County to a single-building school about 13 miles south of Orleans County. The Elba district has about 420 students.

“It’s smaller, but I see it as an advantage as well,” Palmer said by phone from his Pembroke office. “We’ve been steering a large ship with many buildings but sometimes it can be just as rewarding steering a school with one building; a smaller ship.”

Palmer, who has been Pembroke principal since 2003, said measurable progress was made by focusing on instruction and curriculum.

“Many people have worked very hard, and we’ve been ranked No. 1 overall for the past seven or eight years by Business First for school districts in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties in terms of graduation rate, state assessments and Regents exams,” he said. “Twelve years ago, we were seventh or eighth out of the schools just in Genesee County.”

He said curriculum and instruction will remain the top priority at Elba, followed by putting a plan in place to improve the school’s financial position.

“For this upcoming school year, they have had to make some cuts,” he said. Palmer also has been recognized for developing Professional Learning Communities to build school-family communication and maintaining effective relations with union leadership.

Anthony M. Zambito II, president of the Elba Board of Education, said he and the board are “confident and proud” of their decision to hire Palmer, who begins his work there on July 1.

“Mr. Palmer’s professional background, along with a deep understanding of many aspects of educational leadership, makes him an excellent fit for the staff and students of the district,” Zambito said.

Palmer replaces Jerome J. Piwko Jr., who has been the Elba superintendent since 2010. Piwko and the board reached an agreement to terminate his contract.

A former assistant principal at Kendall High School, Palmer earned his bachelor’s degree from Houghton College, and his master’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh.