Outgoing schools chief busy finishing budget

Friday, December 26, 2008 6:24 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — Superintendent of Schools Robert Wolfe is retiring from his position at the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean he is planning to take it easy for the next week.

Wolfe is hoping to finish a draft budget for the school district for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Incoming Superintendent Scott Schoonmaker’s contract begins Thursday.

“I’m going to finish the budget and hand it over to the new superintendent, then he can make whatever changes he wants to,” Wolfe said. “I don’t think it’s fair for a new person to start from scratch.”

Like many years, Wolfe said, he and district Business Manager Don Winnicki could be working up through the end of the year.

“We always use the time between Christmas and New Year’s to finalize numbers in the budget,” he said.

Wolfe, who has been superintendent since 2001, said he will continue to oversee the district’s summer camp program, whose theme this year is “Do You Believe in Magic?” That program drew 2,130 registrations last summer, an increase of about 350 over the previous year.

As for his role as superintendent, Wolfe said he will most miss working with students every day. He plans to continue teaching finance at Southern Connecticut State University.

“I’m going to miss the kids,” he said. “The kids are great — from kindergarten to high school, I think all our kids are great.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Deborah Prunier said that the district will miss Wolfe.

“We’re losing somebody very valuable and in the same breath we are gaining somebody who we are sure will continue through with his vision and have some of his own to only keep North Branford moving forward,” she said.

Prunier pointed to the growth of the district’s arts curriculum, the development of a strategic plan and an improved graduation rate as some of Wolfe’s accomplishments during his tenure.

Wolfe’s last regular school Board of Education meeting this week included a performance by the high school jazz band and a Power Point presentation as well as cake.

“I am personally going to miss him very, very much,” Prunier said. “It’s like losing a friend.”

Wolfe said he has been meeting with Schoonmaker weekly for the past month and is hoping for a smooth transition process.

“I think that January-to-June in every school district in the state is going to be a very difficult time because school districts are not just worrying about costs now, but school districts are going to get slammed by the state on the revenue side,” he said. “They’re going to have less money for education and school systems, so it’s going to be very difficult.”

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