Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 1, 2013

Tibbetts leaves Newfane

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE — Newfane Superintendent Christine J. Tibbetts has retired. And she means it this time.

Tibbetts’ resignation, which took effect Sunday, comes after three years of leading the Newfane school district. She has been in the district’s top post since October 2010, five years after retiring the first time.

Prior to her appointment, Tibbetts spent two months in 2010 as interim superintendent, taking over following the retirement of Gary Pogorzelski. She was appointed permanently to the position despite the district going through a superintendent search, which led to three finalists. Board members decided to promote Tibbetts as the permanent choice because she was a better fit, a sentiment echoed by board members and district stakeholders at the time. 

Tibbetts also served as interim Newfane superintendent for a few months in 2008 when Pogorzelski was out for health reasons. Prior to that, Tibbetts was superintendent of the Lyndonville School District from 2000 until she retired for the first time in 2005.

The first retirement ended when Tibbetts said she was given a chance to come “home.” And now, while she is looking forward to spending time with the family, leaving is a combination of happiness and sadness.

”It’s a bittersweet time,” Tibbetts said. “Coming back to Newfane was an honor that I never expected would happen in my life. To be the superintendent here, after being a teacher, an administrator for 29 years, was an incredible honor.”

Before moving to Lyndonville, Tibbetts worked in Newfane for almost three decades, first as a fifth-grade teacher for 15 years.

Tibbetts served as the head teacher of what was the old Olcott school for three years on Godfrey Road in Burt, then became the Newfane Early Childhood Center’s first principal when the district moved all of its early childhood programs to that building in the 90’s.

Tibbetts then finished her first go-around in Newfane as the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

But spending more time with the family is paramount, because Tibbetts and her husband Hollis have been living apart for most of the past three years. Hollis has been at the Tibbetts home in Winterhaven, Fla., watching the couple’s two dogs. He retired in 1995 from his position as a mathematics professor at Buffalo State College.

Tibbetts also has a son, Maj. Bradley Tibbetts, who came to town last month fresh from his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. 

”It’s time we bring our family together and enjoy the time we have,” Tibbetts said. “We’ll spend six months of the year down there.”

During Tibbetts’ three years on the job in Newfane, the district has dealt with difficult budgets. In 2010, the district lost $3 million in state aid, a huge blow to a district with a budget that hovers around $32 to $34 million a year.

”It started a host of cuts and rollbacks on everything we possibly could without hurting the kids,” Tibbetts said. “I guess what we always thought we do is use a scalpel and not a hatchet and try to carve out pieces here and there without completing obliterating any one program. I think we’ve been as effective in that philosophy as we can be.”

The cuts have varied. For example, the district no longer offers French. There’s one librarian between the middle and high schools. There are no modified sports.

Newfane also underwent a reorganization to help reduce costs. The fourth grade moved to Newfane Elementary School while fifth grade become part of the middle school, which once shared the Transit Road building with the intermediate school. The intermediate school was closed.

But, during that time Newfane has been able to add. Under the district’s Project Ascend initiative, Newfane added the Advancement Via Individual Determination program. AVID is an education program that aims to improve college readiness for students who may be struggling academically.

For Project Ascend, Newfane received $1.5 million in state grants to help expand AVID into grades one through 11. College-level Advanced Placement courses have been added to the high school, focusing on the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and math.

At a board meeting last month, President James Reineke thanked Tibbetts for her three years of leading the district.

”The dedication and commitment you’ve shown to our students, staff and entire organization has been excellent,” Reineke said. “We haven’t always agreed but I truly believe you’ve had the best interest of students and education in Newfane at heart.” 

Tibbetts said she felt she was leaving Newfane in a wonderful direction, but not one without challenges. The financial situation hasn’t improved and the district just went to an impasse with its teachers over the union contract. Schools throughout the state are dealing with new rigorous standards and tests.

But the district will handle those, Tibbetts said, mainly because of what drew her back to Newfane in the first place. The people.

”The kids, number one, are amazing, we have wonderful, wonderful kids going to school here,” Tibbetts said. “The staff is an incredibly talented group whose hearts truly are in it for the kids. We have wonderful teachers and support staff, I’m going to miss the people, thats what makes this place special.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.