ACS begins search for new superintendent

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By Matthew J. Perry
Andes Central School will begin 2009 with a search for a permanent replacement for acting superintendent John Bernhardt, who will step down at the end of the school year.
Candidates will be sought through the state’s educational list-service, but the board will also consider the availability of Pat Norton-White, who recently completed an internship at ACS to fulfill the requirements of a school district administration certificate. Earlier this month, Norton-White was approved by the board for the temporary position of K-12 building principal at a salary of $41,416.
Administrators at Otsego-Northern Catskills BOCES will collect a pool of applicants, whose profiles will be sent to the ACS Board for review. Top candidates will visit the school and meet with various committees before a selection is made.
Bernhardt took no official position with the board, but he was emphatic in stating that Norton-White’s internship has given her a keen sense of the ACS superintendent’s responsibilities and that she should be given serious consideration for the appointment. A former English teacher, Norton-White previously taught at ACS, as well as in Franklin and Delhi, before making a shift into administration.
Despite the tightening economy, Bernhardt does not expect that ACS will receive an overabundance of applicants for the position. “There’s been a difficulty finding superintendents for some years now,” he said on Monday. “There hasn’t been a flood of interest. For many it’s a quality of life issue. The job of superintendent has become a very political job. You’re on the edge of every decision.”
Even salary increases have not significantly widened the applicant pool, according to Bernhardt, and turnover rates are high.
Hypothetically, the next ACS superintendent could come from anywhere so long as they possess necessary qualifications. But with the school’s enrollment dropping and the difficulties presented by relocation, Bernhardt, for one, thinks it likely that his replacement will have roots in a Delaware County community.
These facts highlight some of the benefits of a possible in-house solution. “Pat has worked with me on budget development,” Bernhardt says. “She’s worked on our language arts initiative and she’s interested in the long-term possibilities and challenges of the school. She has many good qualities.”
Bernhardt has also offered to continue to offer assistance, without compensation, should the board elect to hire Norton-White. He was quick to point out that he would offer mentoring and advice only at the pleasure of his replacement.
The board could consider extending Norton-White a one-year contract, which would serve, in essence, as a trial period, as leverage against her lack of experience as a superintendent. That option could end up a “win-win” according to Bernhardt, since it would give Norton-White valuable job experience and the board another year to conduct a search.
Whatever the decision, the position of ACS building principal will be terminated on June 30, and the new superintendent will begin work on July 1.