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Harrisville school board taps principal as new superintendent

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HARRISVILLE — The Harrisville Central School District Board of Education has chosen its secondary school principal to lead the district.

Board members on Tuesday night appointed Robert N. Finster, who has been an administrator at the district for the past three years, as their permanent superintendent, effective July 1.

“His wealth of experience and knowledge have already made him an integral member of our staff over the last three years,” board President Jan T. Mosher said in a release. “I’m confident that Rob will continue to play a key role in implementing high quality education for our children. The board is excited to move forward with Rob as the superintendent.”

Mrs. Mosher in a telephone interview said that board members, who granted Mr. Finster tenure as principal in April, have become very comfortable in working with him and that he has shown loyalty and expertise during his time here.

“We saw no reason to go outside of Harrisville,” Mrs. Mosher said.

“I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to continue to serve the Harrisville Central School District,” Mr. Finster said in a statement.

The new superintendent accepted a three-year contract that carries an initial annual salary of $105,000, Mrs. Mosher said.

Mr. Finster has been serving as acting superintendent since late May, when longtime Superintendent Rolf A. Waters accepted a nearly $61,000 contract buyout from the district and resigned. The resignation of Mr. Waters, also the school’s elementary principal, officially takes effect June 30, but he has worked his last day and is using vacation time until then.

William F. Kellerhals, who retired in 2003 after nine years as secondary principal at Harrisville, also is serving as acting principal through the end of the school year.

Mrs. Mosher said board members are discussing ways to more effectively coordinate administrative duties before bringing in any new hires.

Mr. Finster, a native of New Jersey, earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University, Olean, and received a master’s degree in education administration from St. Lawrence University, Canton.

He taught special education for five years in the Watertown City School District, then served for 2 years as middle school principal in an alternative-education program at the Madison-Oneida Board of Cooperative Educational Services before coming to the Harrisville district.

Mr. Finster and his wife, Bridget, live in Watertown with their three daughters, Sydney, Maggie and Kelsey.

Mr. Waters, Canton, who became superintendent here in July 2003 and whose contract was extended last summer, had indicated prior to his resignation that relations with the board had become strained and that some of his budget and tenure recommendations had been disregarded by board members.

One of those recommendations involved Mr. Waters’s wife, Yvonne, who was hired in 2010 as a reading teacher and Committee on Special Education chairwoman.

That hiring eventually led to some community and staff complaints, even though Mrs. Waters was placed under the direct supervision of Mr. Finster.

The school board in April voted 7-0 to deny tenure to Mrs. Waters, then in mid-May accepted her resignation, effective June 30, according to meeting minutes.

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