August 9, 2008

Granto Plans to End Career With District in June 2009

By Paul Westmoore and Susan Schulman

NIAGARA FALLS - School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto, a fixture in city schools for more than 40 years, plans to retire at the end of the upcoming school year.

Granto confirmed Friday that he plans to leave when his current contract expires at the end of June 2009.

"It's time," he told The Buffalo News. "My contract expires next June 30. I'm honoring that. But I'm not going to ask the board to renew my contract. I'll be 66 by then. I've been around here for 42 years. That's plenty.

"I've got nine grandkids and two greatgrandkids. When I see that, I say to myself, 'Maybe you are as old as people say you are.' "

It's not known who will replace Granto, but the superintendent has been grooming a number of administrators in recent years to handle various administrative tasks.

Among them is Mark R. Laurrie, the chief educational administrator of Niagara Falls High School for the past three years, who is now working in the central office coordinating all programs in all 11 district schools as a principal on special assignment.

Deputy Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco, Granto's sister, is also a possible candidate, as are several other top administrators.

"We've been talking to the board about transition plans and we've been working on that a couple of years" to make sure the district is in good shape and run by qualified people," Granto said. "I feel the board has several people it can go to if it chooses or it could conduct a search," he said. "That's up to the board."

Board President Robert Kazeangin said he was unaware the superintendent planned to leave office in June. He praised Granto as a "visionary," and suggested the board could ask him to stay on past June 30 if more time is needed to find a replacement.

Granto started his career as a Niagara Falls teacher in 1966, moved into administration in 1974, and was named superintendent in 1992.

During his years as top educator, Granto never raised property taxes while still managing to have the district construct three new schools in the process: Niagara Falls High, and Cataract and Niagara Street Elementary schools.

"It's been a wonderful way to spend a lifetime, but now it's time [to go]," he said.

"The best thing for me is I've met some awfully good people on the School Board and in the classroom," he added. "The best thing is when kids come back and say 'Mr. Granto, I remember you.' The trouble is, now it's their grandkids [who come in and say they remember me]."

Granto earns about $131,000 a year as head of the school district. He has also accumulated hundreds of days in unused vacation and sick time that, under his contract, he's able to cash in.

Rather than cashing out in his final year, and hitting the district with a single large lump sum payment, Granto has been selling the days back over the past three years, adding about $70,000 to each of his last three annual year's earnings.

Although he plans to leave the district, Granto is still considering what the future holds for him.

"I've been offered some really good private opportunities," he said. "I can't talk about them now because it would be premature and I'm obligated to keep that information confidential.

"I'll be in the private sector and there's also politics," he said. "Who knows?"

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Originally published by NEWS STAFF REPORTERS.

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