Joining Forces

The head of the Panama Central School district will soon be taking the Clymer Central School district under his wing, as well.

Bert Lictus, Panama superintendent, was named shared superintendent of schools during a joint meeting between the districts’ Boards of Education on Monday.

“I’m excited to begin this opportunity to serve both communities as superintendent,” Lictus said. “This situation is unique, and I applaud the representatives from both schools for looking locally to solve problems – Albany does not have all the answers. It is my hope that this sharing arrangement will open the door to other efficiencies within the two districts.”

The arrangement will go into effect Oct. 26. According to a Panama press release, Lictus will begin serving as a consultant to Clymer on Oct. 1, when he will be working with Karen Moon, interim Clymer superintendent, to begin the transition process.

According to Nancy Westerburg, Clymer board president, Clymer has remained optimistic about the agreement throughout the negotiation process.

“We’re very excited about it, and we’re looking forward to finding other sharing opportunities down the road with Panama – or other school districts – if something can be worked out,” Westerburg said. “(Lictus) is someone that we know, and I think that’s why this worked out so well. He lives in our community, and every day he passes by our school en route to Panama. So, we’re in it for the long haul and we’re looking forward to it very positively.”

The two districts have been working toward this outcome since the concept of a shared superintendent was first introduced to them in June by David O’Rourke, Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES superintendent.

In a previous interview, O’Rourke said schools that have already made the switch to a shared superintendent have reported a savings of $50,000-$60,000 on superintendent salary which, ideally, would be realized without any loss of services. According to a comprehensive administrative compensation report for the 2013-14 school year, which was obtained from the state Education Department website, the salaries paid to the Clymer and Panama superintendents would have been $112,200 and $116,812, respectively.

“While the sharing of superintendents in New York state is relatively new as a concept, Bert Lictus is uniquely suited for this cooperative arrangement between Panama and Clymer districts,” O’Rourke said. “He is a proven leader with a track record of improving student achievement at Panama, and he is a well-known resident in the Clymer community.”

He added: “Generally, when two boards consider sharing a superintendent, they need to carefully weigh the savings with the loss of services they receive from having a full-time superintendent in their district. There are trade-offs. It isn’t necessarily the right answer in all communities. Here, at Panama and Clymer, the boards are trying to make it work.”

Lictus has served as the Panama superintendent since 2010, though he had previously held several other administrative positions within the district. Prior to becoming superintendent of Panama, he served as director of student services from 2001-03, co-principal from 2003-05, secondary principal from 2005-09 and K-12 principal from 2009-10.

His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in communication from Canisius College, a Master of Education in special education from Edinboro University and a Certificate of Advanced Study, also from Edinboro.