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Administrator who resigned from RCSD in 2021 emerges as promising leader for South Seneca Elementary School

  • / Updated:
  • Josh Durso 

There’s a lot of promise and optimism at the South Seneca Elementary School following the appointment of Dan Fontanez last week.

That’s a positive development for the community, and Fontanez, who faced criticism over his time at the Rochester City School District. His appointment to principal last week initially sparked concerns, stemming from his 2020 resignation after an internal audit revealed he had changed student record dates and falsified parent consultation documents. The matter dated back to 2019, according to a report by the Democrat & Chronicle.

However, South Seneca’s Superintendent Steve Zielinski defended the decision, highlighting Fontanez’s two-year positive track record with the district. “When we hired Mr. Fontanez two years ago, we completed a lengthy vetting process to learn the full extent of what happened in Rochester upon his exit from that district,” he explained. “We decided to bring him to South Seneca and let his actions here prove what we heard again and again about his exemplary character during the vetting. In his time working with our students and families, he has done that and more. Parents in our district over the last two years have consistently praised his work with their children, and his colleagues have come to know him as beyond reproach.”

As for what happened in Rochester, Zielinski said Fontanez had taken responsibility prior to being hired in South Seneca. “He takes full responsibility for his part of the episode in Rochester. At South Seneca, we took it under consideration when we took a chance on him back then, and are eager to answer questions now on his continued professional contributions to our own school community,” he added.

The Board’s August 30 meeting, intended for routine business, turned into a session where community members were given the opportunity to discuss Fontanez’s appointment. While there was initial apprehension, the community’s response turned overwhelmingly positive post-meeting. Zielinski confirmed the influx of positive feedback. “Since Mr. Fontanez’s name was made public as the choice for Elementary Principal, my inbox has been flooded with excitement about the decision and praise for his work in that building over the last two years. Most especially from those in the community—staff and parents—who have worked most closely with him, I’ve heard so many stories about his willingness to go the extra mile for South Seneca students,” Zielinski added.

He reiterated that Fontanez had his full-support moving forward. “As a teacher collaborator since joining us in 2021, Fontanez has shown dedication to addressing our most pressing challenges. The interviewing staff was in strong agreement that he’ll continue to build on his successes as principal.”