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The truth about those exempts

It seems there's a good chance that Amber Dixon will appoint a chief academic officer this week, if she can rally enough votes on the board to support her choice. According to the timeline she gave me most recently, it seemed she wanted to have someone in place right around now. The deadline for applications was over a month ago.

And the most likely candidate still seems most likely to be Fran Wilson, as noted here before. Lately, it seems that everywhere Dixon goes, Wilson's nearby -- whether that involves staying til the bitter end of a board meeting or sitting through presentations at a gathering of the Big Five.

Mark FrazierAlthough Wilson is technically still a community superintendent -- one of three reporting to lead community superintendent Mark Frazier -- she keeps popping up more and more as Dixon's right hand. And we seem to be hearing and seeing less of Frazier.

It seems wherever I go lately, people are speculating on the future of Frazier as well as a bunch of other exempts. Many people seem to be thinking that when some of their contracts expire, Dixon will simply opt not to renew them.

Well, there's a glitch in this thinking. Although Dixon has said repeatedly that she plans to thin the ranks of the exempts, I don't think she's going to wait for their contracts to expire to make that happen.

Here's why: Most of them have at least several months left on their contract, and some have more than a year left. And Dixon has said we will see a smaller exempt staff by January 2012, which is only two months away.

I thought it would make sense to provide the end dates of the exempt contracts, to put to rest the rumors that are circulating that some of these contracts are about to expire.

According to the best information I have, none of the exempt contracts expire for about another two months. Two people in human resources, Eileen Fleming and Marta Clark, had their contracts expire this summer. I know both of their contracts were extended for a few months. I asked Fleming a few weeks ago for clarification on the dates. She referred the question to district spokeswoman Elena Cala, and I never did get a definite answer. As far as I know, the contracts for Fleming and Clark expire sometime around the end of the calendar year.

After that, the next contract to expire is that of Cala, whose contract is up in March 2012.

Beyond that, several exempt contracts expire in June 2012: Barb Smith, CFO; Frazier; and Erin Comerford, executive administrator.

Here's when the rest of the exempt contracts expire, through the end of 2013:

July 2012: Gary Wilson, assistant legal counsel.

August 2012: Aubrey Lloyd, executive director of athletics, and Fran Wilson, community superintendent.

September 2012: Anne Botticelli and Debra Sykes, associate superintendents; and Cassandra Harrington, community superintendent.

October 2012: Craig Koeppel, director of purchasing; Peggy Boorady, community superintendent; and Jim Kane, chief of staff.

December 2012: Kelly Gale Eisenried, executive director of labor relations.

June 2013: Will Keresztes, associate superintendent.

December 2013: Joe Giusiana, chief operations officer.

Also: The contracts for Geoff Pritchard, the finance controller, and Dan Marmion, the chief technology officer, expired this summer. Both were renewed, but I don't have exact end dates for their current contracts.

So now that you see the end dates on all the contracts, it leads us to ponder the next question: How and when will Dixon reduce the exempt staff?

She has two options, essentially.

She could terminate those she wants to see gone. That would cost three months pay per exempt, as the severance clause in the contracts stipulates.

Or she could show them the writing on the wall and suggest they find other positions. That would presumably save face for them, and also save taxpayers some money.

Stay tuned to find out how this plays out.

- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |