A longtime Schenectady school administrator has been named the interim principal of Scotia-Glenville Middle School.
Gary Comley will take over for Shari Keller, whose last day is Friday.
Comley retired in 2010 as associate superintendent for Schenectady High School. He started his new job this week and will be paid $425 per day for his initial contract, which runs through April 26, but school officials expect him to serve for the rest of the school year.
Superintendent Susan Swartz said the district advertised for a middle school principal in the fall and had more than 25 applicants. Two separate teams narrowed that field to eight who were then interviewed by top administrators. Then, the group was reduced to three finalists.
One of the finalists took a position in another district, and the selected candidate decided not to come.
Given the short time frame, Swartz needed to find a person quickly. She said she keeps a short list of administrators because the district never knows when it might have an unexpected opening.
She was familiar with Comley’s work in Schenectady and said the fact that he is the husband of current Sacandaga Elementary School Principal Ann Comley was not a factor.
“I knew that he was a person that could step in and take over a middle school and ensure a smooth transition through the spring. Thankfully, he was willing to come,” Swartz said.
Gary Comley served as associate superintendent and high school principal from 2007-10, principal of Mont Pleasant Middle School from 2000-07, K-12 mathematics coordinator in 1999 and 2000, Mont Pleasant assistant principal from 1994–99 and a mathematics and a computer science teacher in Schenectady schools from 1977-94.
He has been working with Keller and meeting the children this week. “He’s getting the lay of the land from Shari,” Swartz said.
Swartz said she will start the search for a permanent replacement again in the spring and has already received some inquiries. Sometimes, people are unwilling to leave their jobs in the middle of the school year. She hoped the successful candidate would start July 1.
The district will seek a waiver from the state Education Department to allow it to hire Comley on an interim basis. State law requires that people who are not yet 65 but are collecting a pension apply for what is called a Section 211 waiver to allow a school district to hire them if their annual pay exceeds $30,000.
Swartz praised Keller for her contributions to the district, saying she was committed to the community and a great problem solver. She also was compassionate and fun, Swartz said.
“It’s good to have a good sense of humor if you’re going to be in a middle school,” Swartz said.
The district has been going through some administrative turnover. In June, principals James Dunham and John Tobiassen retired from Glen-Worden and Sacandaga elementary schools, respectively. Rather than have too many school leaders depart the scene at the same time, Keller, 56, said she timed her departure for the middle of the school year. That helped provide some continuity during the transition period.
Keller plans to do some consulting work and help to care for her 93-year-old mother-in-law, who lives with her and her husband.
“I’m going to miss the energy of the students. I think they help keep you young,” she said.
In addition to the departing principals, David Versocki, director of technology, is resigning effective Jan. 2 to work for the Northeast Regional Information Center, a branch of BOCES. Swartz said she plans to fill the position later in the school year and will hire two new elementary principals.
Neither Dunham nor Tobiassen were replaced, saving about $250,000 in this year’s budget. Instead, the district shuffled administrators around and gave others new duties. Ann Comley was moved to Sacandaga and replaced at Lincoln by Athletic Director John Geniti. Maureen Long, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, also assumed the duties of Glen-Worden principal.
Swartz said Geniti and Long have done well in those jobs, but she plans to bring on permanent replacements for next year.
“It’s hard to be doing both jobs,” she said.
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