Fulton County

Hiring ends Mayfield’s 2-year search for school superintendent

The nearly two-year search for a new superintendent of the Mayfield Central School District has come

The nearly two-year search for a new superintendent of the Mayfield Central School District has come to an end this week as the Board of Education announced its selection of Jon W. Peterson to head the district.

Peterson was selected from a field of four finalists, each of whom went through day-long interviews over the past two weeks.

“We are very pleased to choose an excellent candidate from a top-flight group of finalists,” Mayfield Board of Education President Ernie Clapper said in a news release Friday morning. “His enthusiasm for coming to our district will most certainly be contagious and we all look forward to working with him.”

The district had been searching for a new permanent superintendent since the retirement of Paul G. Williamsen in summer 2013.

Clapper said although the two interim superintendents have done a “tremendous, tremendous job” for the district, it will be “good to have someone who is going to commit longterm to the district and get us moving forward.”

Peterson’s strong record of success was a big factor in his selection, said Clapper.

“One thing that stood out with Jon was he’s had so much success in his present school and he’s had a long tenure there,” he said. “He’s brought his graduation rates up, he’s brought his academic achievement up. And he seems to be somebody that will connect with people both in the community and in the school.”

Peterson, 58, is currently superintendent of schools for the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District in western New York, where he is credited with improving the graduation rate by 10 percentage points, from 71 percent to 81 percent, over his seven years there.

Peterson attributes that improvement to several initiatives aimed at supporting struggling students, including Academic Intervention Services reform, an alternative education program through the regional BOCES, and an online credit recovery program for students who have fallen behind.

“Our guiding document, our strategic plan, identified that that was an area where we really wanted to improve,” he said. “We weren’t happy with our graduation rates.”

In his time with the district, Peterson also oversaw a wide-ranging, $59-million capital improvement project that overhauled much of the school’s infrastructure and paid particular attention to bringing technology into the classroom. That included an initiative that equipped every student in grades seven to 12 with an iPad.

“So the students are engaged with technology every single day and they are using technology both to receive instruction, to learn the Common Core learning standards, and to apply 21st-century learning skills,” he said. “So that’s been really exciting.”

Under Peterson, the district improved each year on the Business First academic ranking of New York State schools, he said. The district was at number 297 of 429 in the 2013 rankings; Mayfield sits at 176 on the same list.

He also saw the school through some difficult decisions, he said, as economic strain from cuts in state aid and the 2-percent tax cap led to layoffs and the closing of an elementary school.

“Despite making those tough decisions, at the same time we’ve been able to advance some academic programming,” he said.

According to the news release, Peterson previously served as a high school principal at Southwestern Central School in Jamestown and as secondary school principal and middle school assistant principal at Westfield Academy and Central School.

He holds a master’s degree in multidisciplinary studies from the State University of New York College at Buffalo and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SUNY Buffalo. He received his certification as a school district administrator from SUNY Fredonia.

In his coming years at Mayfield, he said he’s hopeful that as the state’s economy improves, increases in state aid will allow the school district to “bring back some programming and staffing that had been cut and hopefully not only restore, but maybe enhance and add to what we currently offer.”

In particular, he said, as in Cattaraugus-Little Valley, he will bring an emphasis on integrating technology into the classroom.

“My passion is kind of bringing instructional technology into the hands of teachers, but most importantly into the hands of students,” he said. “I look forward to working with the teachers to see what would really work for Mayfield so that Mayfield’s kids can truly walk out of Mayfield with the 21st-century skills they need to be successful in whatever comes next — if they go off to college, if they go right into careers, if they go into the military — whatever it is.”

Peterson said the move to Mayfield seemed like a good fit for him. The district, with about 940 students in a rural setting, is similar to the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District, he said, which has about 1,040 students including pre-kindergarten.

“It’s a rural school like Cattaraugus-Little Valley,” he said. “The school is central to the community and much of the community pride is on the school, and I want to be a part of that. And I just saw great potential in Mayfield moving forward.”

Clapper said salary negotiations are still ongoing. During the search process, the school district was offering $125,000 to $145,000.

Peterson is expected to assume his position at Mayfield July 1.

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