The Port Chester Board of Education bypassed a popular long-time district administrator in favor of long-rumored frontrunner Edward Kliszus at Wednesday night's meeting.
With a 3-2 vote, the board appointed Kliszus, who currently works as superintendent in Hackensack, NJ.
Kliszus, who is set to retire from his current post on June 30, is the district's third superintendent this year, following Donald Carlisle, who led the district for the better part of five years, and Thomas C. Elliott, who was superintendent for a six-month interim period that ended earlier this month.
In a vote that mirrored Elliott's appointment earlier this year, long-time board members Anne Capeci and James Dreves advocated for hiring Assistant Superintendent Frank Fanelli, while members Jim Taylor, Blanca Lopez and Carolee Brakewood voted in favor of Kliszus.
"We were looking for people who take this career seriously and are deep thinkers," Taylor said.
Lopez called the vote "probably the hardest and most important decision" she's had to make during her time on the board.
"There is a tendency to believe we have the local talent" to take the reigns of the school district and build on previous successes, Lopez said. But, echoing an earlier statement by Taylor, she said Kliszus has the "experience and talent" to guide Port Chester schools in the immediate future.
Calling the choice "definitely wrong," Dreves advocated for Fanelli before the vote was called.
"Frank Fanelli would have stepped into the job and led us on to great things in the future," Dreves said.
Turning toward the rest of the board, he offered the last comments before the vote: "I really think you're making a big mistake."
Kliszus will look to build on recent successes in Port Chester schools, including two national Blue Ribbon awards, as well as guide the district through unique challenges like overcrowded classrooms, and more common challenges faced by other school districts. Port Chester was among dozens of local school districts dealing with steep cuts in a still-stagnant economy and lean budget year. Next time around, the district's budget vote will be constrained by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recently enacted tax cap.
Check back with Port Chester Patch for updates.
Update, 9:38 p.m.: The latest version of this story now includes reaction from school board members.
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