Kathman Reflects On 26-Year JPS Career

Although he spent the last five years as the Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, Daniel Kathman prefers to remember his prior services to the district.

This week, as his retirement from JPS took effect after 26 years with the district, Kathman pointed to the highlights of his career – including the four positions spanning 21 years before becoming superintendent.

Kathman’s career at JPS began in 1987, where he initially served as building principal at Love Elementary School. He described his tenure at Love as “good years.”

In 1990, he became director of elementary education – a capacity which he filled until he then became the assistant superintendent for instruction in 2003. He took over as superintendent of schools in 2008, preceded by Ray Fashano.

Over the course of his time at JPS, Kathman spoke to some of the additions and changes to the district he witnessed.

“The move from half-day kindergarten to full-day kindergarten was a significant change and accomplishment. That was about 15 years ago,” he said. “A little less than 10 years ago, we started up our 4-year-old pre-kindergarten program. That was substantial, and it’s still going on today. Starting (education) younger with kids is important.”

Kathman also mentioned some of the projects in which he played a role.

“I’m particularly proud of the administrative team that I had a hand in assembling for the district,” he said. “We have extremely bright, and even more hard-working, folks in the administrative team; especially the central office staff. That doesn’t sound like an accomplishment but, to the extent that I had a hand in assembling that crew, I’m extremely proud of it.

“And I’m also happy to have continued the capital construction improvements that Ray Fashano started,” he added. “My little twist was the chasing of any and all energy-efficiency improvements we could make. And I was particularly well-supported by the Board of Education. It was a real pleasure working with those folks.”

Although Kathman has never been one to seek the spotlight, he did say he appreciated the comments made by JHS Principal Mike McElrath about him at the district’s 2013 commencement ceremony at Chautauqua Institution in June.

“The reception that I felt in that setting, with that audience, was really very heartwarming,” he said.

Kathman described his years as district superintendent as difficult, having taken the reins just before the initial financial crisis of 2008. The following year saw a freezing in foundation aid to all New York school districts, as well as the introduction of the gap elimination adjustment. Consequently, the budget-building processes during his time as district leader were far from enjoyable.

“Those last five budgets were awful to build,” Kathman said. “But those were the cards we were dealt, and we handled those circumstances in the most austere and smart manner that we could. There were some very, very difficult decisions (to make). But I hope that trend line starts to improve with respect to state aid, and I hope the dark times are behind us because it really needs to turn that corner.”

INTO THE FUTURE

As both he and JPS prepare for a new phase of life, Kathman said he believes JPS is in good hands with new superintendent Tim Mains – who started on Thursday.

“The focus needs to be on exactly what Tim Mains is keeping as his priorities. Tim’s priorities are very well-timed and well-focused, so I’m sure the district is going to make some great strides,” he said.

As for retirement, Kathman said he and his wife Debbie, who also retired as executive director of Chautauqua Striders this year, are looking forward to spending more time with their family, while maintaining a presence in the community.

“Debbie and I are committed to the community, so we’re not pulling up our roots here,” he said. “It’s a great place to live, and the both of us will continue to be engaged with the community in a variety of different ways. We’re really looking forward to spending more time with the grandkids, and seeing our sons in Charlotte and Orlando. We’ve (also) got one (son) here in town and one in Buffalo that we get to see all the time.”

Later this year, the Kathmans will co-chair the 2013 United Way of Southern Chautauqua County campaign, which officially begins in September. This year’s campaign goal is $1,315,000. The money raised will help 18 partner agencies administer 39 local programs to advance initiatives surrounding education, income and health.