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West Seneca schools rebooting search for a new superintendent

West Seneca will be starting its search for a new school superintendent — again.

But finding a superintendent is something most members said they want to discuss, and the school board has been split on some major issues.

Superintendent Mark Crawford announced in November 2016 that he was retiring, and he left the district April 28. The board hired a search consultant, but after residents objected to the lack of community involvement in the selection process, the search for a permanent head was put on hold in February. The permanent job was never posted, said newly elected President Carol Jarczyk, who at one point last year asked what was taking so long.

The board will hold a meeting 6 p.m. Monday to discuss how to approach the search for a new superintendent. She said if the board can agree on the process, she's hoping a new superintendent could be on board by October or November.

One of the first actions the board took after Jarczyk was elected board president last week was to terminate interim Superintendent Whitney Vantine on a split vote.

West Seneca School Board fires interim superintendent

School board members have publicly said very little about why they fired him less than three months after he took the job.

"At this time, it was the right thing to do for our district. It really was," Jarczyk said.

When the board appointed director of pupil personnel Matthew Bystrak as the acting superintendent moments after dismissing Vantine, and she heard the applause from the audience, which included a number of teachers and employees, Jarczyk said she knew it was the right move.

Vantine, who joined the district May 1, may have seemed distant to teachers and administrators, who are used to making decisions at the building level and having a large role in decision-making.

"He did not set up a meeting with me as president of the teachers union until the last week of school in June," West Seneca Teachers Association President Joseph Cantafio said.

It's clear the teachers association was upset with the previous school board majority's efforts to redesign the prekindergarten program, because the union challenged the action in state Supreme Court. And Vantine was hired on a 7-0 vote under the former board majority.

Franco DiPasqua, president of the West Seneca Administrators Association, gave a hint of some employee dissatisfaction with Vantine at the board's last meeting. He said several administrators' photos were used on social media without their consent during the campaign for school board and that the union complained several times to Vantine, but was told nothing could be done.

DiPasqua also scolded the board last week, and said its actions in the last year had brought the unions closer together.

"Never have we seen such divisiveness used in the name of children to propel people's personal aspirations with those of their friends," DiPasqua said.

There were overtures by several board members during last week's reorganization meeting to end the divisiveness.

Board Member Kate Newton, who served as president last year, was nominated for president, but declined the nomination in the spirit of "unity." She said she would like to become vice president, to work with Jarczyk to unify the board and district.

"I very much look forward to unifying this board," Newton said.

But Janice Dalbo was elected vice president instead.

Jarczyk, who said she had served as president four previous times, said she did not know she would be elected president until the day of the meeting.

"I'm thrilled to represent us. I promise to my fellow board members that I will share everything with them, anything I know. I won't make any moves unless they tell me to move," she said. "Like Kate said, in the spirit of unity. I can't agree more."

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