Tonawanda News

August 31, 2012

District begins search for super

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Days after Whitney Vantine announced his retirement as the City of Tonawanda Superintendent of Schools, the board hired Donald Ogilvie, the district superintendent for Erie 1 BOCES, as a search consultant for Vantine’s replacement. 

Ogilvie discussed his negotiable calendar with the board Thursday night and dicussed how the next few months will go. 

“His heart is in Tonawanda,” Board President Jackie Smilinich said. 

Ogilvie, who was hired at a fee of $7,000, plans on advertising the position starting today. The application period will be over in about four weeks. 

Although the board will make the final decision, they plan to appoint a search advisory committee to aid in the process. The body will likely be composed of about 25 people and the appointment of the individuals is scheduled for the end of September.

Also scheduled for the end of Sept. is a community forum to discuss the search.

The committee will then use structured questions to interview six to nine candidates on the short list and complete an online, anonymous questionnaire about the candidates. 

The board will use the feedback to whittle the list down to three or four finalists and then the board will conduct a second interview. 

Ogilvie is hoping to hire someone for the position in October with a start date of late January or early February, as most superintendents have a 60-day notification period with their current employer.

Although board members said they would have liked the process to move faster, Ogilvie said it is not possible. 

“We can’t do it any sooner, and we don’t want to make it any longer,” Smilinich said. 

Ogilvie stressed the importance of the process and what the selection will mean for years to come, but the importance and timing of the search did cause stress for board members. 

“In this time of budget constraints and state mandates, how difficult is this going to be?” board member Jennifer Mysliwy said. 

Ogivlie assured the group that he would provide guidance and specific guidelines so that the process will be as low-stress as possible.

Member Sharon Stuart also rose the possibility of a residency clause that would require the superintendent to live in the city.

“It was a huge, huge bone of contention when Vantine didn’t live here as an outsider at the time,” Stuart said. 

Ogilvie said residency clauses are on the decline and some board members rose concerns about such a clause limiting the pool that applies. The board eventually decided to recommend residency but will not necessarily make it a deal-breaker. 

The board also discussed the salary range that will be posted on the position’s advertisements. Ogilvie provided information on other area district superintendents’ salaries — which range from $128,000 in the smallest district, about a third of Tonawanda’s size, to $200,000 in the largest district, four times Tonawanda’s size. Vantine was highly experienced as a superintendent and was paid $158,000. 

Board members discussed a variety of salary ranges, but eventually agreed on a salary not to exceed $160,000.

“We need to find someone with a lot of experience with so many big things coming up,” Stuart said. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.