by justin strawser

CATAWISSA RR - Southern Columbia Area Superintendent Charlie Reh will be available as superintendent between his last day on campus when he retires next month and the incoming superintendent's first day.

Reh previously reported that his official retirement date is Feb. 4, 2013, but his last day on campus will be Jan. 18, 2013, the last day of the first semester.

Paul Caputo, who was hired as Reh's successor Monday night at the board meeting, will start Feb. 4.

Reh said Tuesday he would likely be taking vacation days to finish off his term, but would still be available for whatever issues arise during that time.

"Between the 18th and the fourth, I'm still the superintendent," he said.

The school board approved hiring of the 51-year-old Caputo, the current superintendent at Upper Dauphin Area School District, at an initial annual salary of $103,000 Monday night at a special board meeting. Caputo will opt out of the health insurance policy because he is covered by his wife's policy at Shenandoah Valley School District.

Comparatively, when Reh was hired as superintendent July 1, 2007, he started at a salary of $94,000. Reh will leave the district at a salary of $106,000. His contract had called for him to make $109,000 in his last year, but he took a pay freeze to assist the district in budget concerns.

Caputo will start date will remain as long as he has been released by his current employer. The Southern contract, which he describes as a "lateral move" in pay, runs through June 30, 2016.

Caputo graduated in 1983 from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in social studies. He was part of the Southern Columbia District from 2003 to 2006. He was hired in 2006 as supervisor of curriculum, technology and federal programs at North Schuylkill School District. He was hired at Upper Dauphin in June 2010. He was also employed for 11 years at Carbon County Area Vocational-Technical School, where he served as a social studies teacher, assistant principal and principal.

Caputo attended the meeting with his wife, Michele Caputo, and their two sons, Luke, 11, and Joel, 14. They live in Ringtown which is a 50 minute commute to the district. He and his wife have another son, Paul, 19, who is a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Following the meeting, Paul Caputo, who said he has a special place in his heart for Southern, said he admires the commitment the staff, board and parents have to the students of the district.

"They want excellence, and they have it. They should be very proud of what they have here," he said.

In a difficult time for school districts, Caputo said he will work hard to maintain what Southern has achieved.

In his first year as superintendent at Upper Dauphin, he said he faced a $2 million deficit in the budget.

Everything, including tax increases and cuts to programs and positions, had to be considered to save money, and the budget was balanced because of that and "a little bit of luck," he said.

It was later determined that the transportation provider for Upper Dauphin was overcharging the district, and the transportation line item was reduced from $1.5 million to $813,000, he said.

"I'm hoping to bring new insights," he said.

Directors Timothy Vought and John Yocum made and seconded the motion to hire Caputo, and it passed 6-1 with Vice President Charlie Porter voting against it.

During the meeting, Porter said to Caputo, "Even though I voted no, I wish you success."

When asked about his vote, following the meeting Porter said he liked some of the other candidates and thought someone else would be a better fit for the district, but he said he did not want to elaborate.

Eleven people applied for the position, and the board interviewed four candidates. Caputo and Evan Williams, the former assistant superintendent at Waynesboro Area School District, were the only two asked back for a second interview.

Director Eric Stahley, who was late due to an expulsion hearing at the Northumberland County Career and Technology Center, was unable to vote on the superintendent item.