By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — WHEATFIELD — Beginning July 1, Lynn Marie Fusco will have complete administrative control of the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District.
Fusco was chosen by the district’s school board to be its next superintendent at Wednesday’s meeting, giving the Hamburg resident a four-year contract with an option of a fifth year at the board’s discretion.
“From a candidate field of 27, the board ... narrowed the field down to and selected one candidate it felt possessed the leadership skills, educational expertise and character needed to rebuild our district and return it to being not only the best educational institution in Niagara County but lift it to being the best in all Western New York,” School Board President Steve Sabo said.
Fusco comes to the district after spending the past seven years in the same role in the Alden Central School District. Before Alden, she spent 10 years as the director of curriculum, instruction and personnel at East Aurora.
The board will pay Fusco $163,000 in 2013-14, with built in raises of 1.5 percent ($2,445) the next year and 2 percent each of the following two years ($3,309 and $3,375 respectively) thereafter, according to her contract, obtained by the Niagara Gazette.
Other contract specifics include the district contributing 85 percent of Fusco’s health insurance costs, 30 sick days next year with the ability to roll over any unused up to 200 total and 25 vacation days in addition to the district’s 13 holidays.
The contract stipulates vacation leave can only be used on days school is not in session with the option to carry over up to 10 days each year to be used any time during her employment. Any unused vacation days would be eligible for reimbursement at 1/240 of her salary at the end of each year, though the contract also stipulates she may only cash in up to 10 of the days.
In addition, the contract also allows Fusco to seek reimbursement for any moving costs should she choose to relocate to Niagara-Wheatfield. If she and her husband move into the district by June 30, 2014, she would be able to receive $5,000 in expenses.
Fusco, though, is stepping into a lions den of activity. After its destructive 2011-12 school year, which led to the retirement of former Superintendent Carl Militello amid a financial disaster in February 2012 and more than 40 teacher layoffs, the district is considering another round of massive educator losses and reductions of non-mandated programs.
While Sabo and the board all expressed gratitude to Fusco after authorizing the signing of her employment contract Wednesday, Fusco said she was drawn to the district by a reputation it has in employing quality teachers and staff with the success of students at the top of their goals.
She said Alden has been faced with a similar situation, on a lesser scale, as state funding questions and spending concerns have dominated headlines across New York. It’s even hurt her personally, she said.
“My kids grew up in the music and art programs at Alden,” she said. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is go through and make the recommendations to cut the programs my kids grew up loving.”
“But I’ve been around a while,” she said Wednesday. “I was around when we all went through the first standards movement, with the fourth and eighth grade tests. We need to remember to be patient with ourselves.”Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.