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Former OFA superintendent takes over interim post in Massena

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MASSENA - When William H. Flynn took over as interim superintendent of the Massena Central School District, it was almost like coming home again.

“I’m a graduate of Massena High School. It’s just real nice to back in the school district. They helped me achieve my goals,” he said. “I could feel Massena. It felt the same.”

Mr. Flynn, who had retired as superintendent of the Ogdensburg City School District on June 30, 2006, took over for William W. Crist, who served as interim superintendent from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28. Mr. Crist accepted a position as superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Syracuse.

“I’m enjoy it. It’s nice to be back,” he said. “I like doing the district leadership kind of role.”

It’s actually the second time Mr. Flynn has been back in the district in the past few months. He served as interim principal at Nightengale Elementary School from the time Shannon Jordan left in October for a new position to the time Amy Hornung took over as permanent principal in December.

“It helped me to start out as interim principal at Nightengale. I enjoyed it. They were great kids and a wonderful faculty and staff. I got to meet parents and they were very welcoming,” he said.

Mr. Flynn spent eight years as an assistant superintendent and six years as superintendent in Ogdensburg. Prior to that, he has served as both a teacher and principal. It was a career he said he dreamed of as a child.

“I was retired, really retired, for seven years. I hadn’t been doing much of anything except volunteering and serving on boards. I’ve always loved my career,” he said.

He said he had no reservations about jumping back into the superintendent role again when he was asked.

“None whatsoever. I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to have the opportunity. The perspective is so different if it’s something you like to do and can do it for as long as you choose,” Mr. Flynn said.

But it’s a different administrative role than the one he left in 2006 with the introduction of new initiatives such as the Common Core and the Annual Professional Performance Review for teachers and administrators.

“There have been changes. Obviously there are big changes in terms of curriculum. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. A lot of initiatives are the same. The budget process is the same,” he said.

Mr. Flynn took over as interim superintendent in the midst of the budget-building process for 2014-15. The district currently faces a $4 million gap in that spending plan. The Finance Committee plans to hold another session at 5 p.m. April 3, prior to the regular 6:30 p.m. board of education meeting.

“It’s a challenge, but the administrative team has worked really diligently on it and prepared scenarios. I’m not sure we are uncovering any new ways to get there. We’re coming up with a good amount of study to determine the impact if items are removed from the budget,” he said.

The state budget may have passed by the April 3 meeting, which will give district officials some more concrete numbers to plug into their budget.

“It looks like they (the Senate and Assembly) will be trying to do some restoration (of funding), but it’s not huge amounts of dollars. It would be easier if we had an on-time budget from the state. Right now we’re sort of in flux. We plan for the worst and hope for the best. We can predict local revenues,” but not actual state aid numbers until that budget is finalized, Mr. Flynn said.

Massena, like other school districts, will need to dip into its fund balance to cover the gap beyond what state aid provides. And the more they invade their fund balance, the smaller it will become as the years go on.

“That’s not going to be there forever,” Mr. Flynn said.

They can’t rely on local tax dollars either because of the tax cap districts face.

“Realistically, for this district it’s not going to resolve anything for us,” he said. “I’m not sure how schools districts will survive beyond that without consolidation. There will be far more dramatic measures than sharing services. They will need to look at something more than that.”

In Massena’s case, Mr. Flynn said he’s meeting with administrators and directors to get their advice about what path the district should take in their budget. He’s also listening to input from the faculty staff, board of education and community.

“I try to get a sense of what they would like to see happen. I want to get a sense of what direction they want to go,” he said. “Right now I’m assisting the board in developing a budget that’s fiscally responsible and providing the best opportunity for students in terms of programs and extracurriculars.”

While it’s a difficult budget to prepare, Mr. Flynn said he’s lucky to have experienced administrators on the staff who have been through the drill before.

“They certainly have a history of the district and a good perspective of what our capabilities are. It’s a seasoned administrative team, which is so helpful for a new person coming in. I listen very carefully to what they have to say and try to take it in and do the best I can as far as making good decisions,” he said.

Mr. Flynn’s tenure as interim superintendent is “indefinite,” as the board of education gets set to begin a superintendent search. But he believes he’ll be leading the district until the end of the school year at a minimum since he has already signed diplomas for graduating students in the Class of 2014.

“It all depends on the board of education and how long they would like me to stay as they search for a new superintendent,” he said.

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