Cassadaga Valley Central School's new superintendent recently received a ringing endorsement from the official charged with overseeing all area districts.
On Tuesday evening, Erie 2-Chautauqua Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Dr. David O'Rourke said Charles Leichner's leadership will not only benefit the school district, but the community as well. "Chuck is a bright, experienced and skilled educational leader," O'Rourke said. "I am looking forward to working with Chuck as he takes on this new leadership position at Cassadaga Valley."
Leichner's move is Cassadaga Valley's gain - and definitely Forestville's loss.
While we salute Cassadaga Valley's board for hiring a candidate, especially one who is a stakeholder from within the county, we are left to wonder just who will fill Leichner's shoes in Forestville? Leichner must have been tiring from the constant battle of running a small district, which includes unrealistic expectations, a bare-bones offering of courses and dwindling class numbers.
Keeping a district the size of Forestville afloat - for any superintendent - is a losing proposition.
By moving to Cassadaga Valley, Leichner is taking on a district with an enrollment of 1,008 students - almost double that of Forestville. Neither district is growing, but a district the size of Cassadaga Valley has a lot more wiggle room than one like Forestville.
Leichner will still face challenges as enrollment decreases, but it will be nothing like the crisis that awaits even smaller districts.
As we have seen with Ripley, enrollment-challenged district residents need to think outside the box. While maintaining an identity seems important, it is nowhere near as crucial as giving students a better education that includes extracurricular activities, and Advanced Placement courses as additional programs.
Forestville needs to face reality. A shrinking district may be a source of community pride, but it is hindering those who should be benefiting from it the most: its current students.