Saranac Lake School Board hears from Principals

The mission of the Brushton-Moira Shared Decision-Making Teams is to foster a united community working cooperatively for the intellectual, physical and personal development of all of our students so that they will become responsible, caring citizens prepared to meet future challenges.

The St Regis school board superintendent retired in 2010, and the school board took on Beverly Ouderkirk as their interim Superintendent… The Following year,  Brushton Moira’s Superintendent retired… Through the spring there was a sharing of two boards and they ultimately decided to enter into an arrangement last year to enter into the shared arrangement with Ouderkirk. She will remain Superintendent of both Brushton-Moira and St Regis Falls through the 2012-2013 school year. Steve Shafer is assisting the Saranac Lake Central School Board as they consider their options. He says the two boards have agreed, one by vote and the other by unanimous consent to enter into a search for another shared superintendent to replace Ouderkirk and continue the process of developing shared services and maximizing the strengths of each district.

From Left to Right – Boces Representative Steve Sharon, Tom Obrien, Dennis, and Janet Smith, Vice President of the Lake Placid Central School Board. Lake Placid’s School Board President Mary Deitrich is seated in the background.

Denis Eaton is Principal of Brushton Moira –  He begins by telling the story of how the shared superintendent concept came about…  He’s sitting at the left end of the “U” shaped table which the Saranac Lake Central School Board usually meets around.. Five representatives from the Lake Placid School Board are in the wooden chairs set up for audience members just to the left of the entrance to the Petrova Library where the school board regularly meets…  It was on Tuesday evening that theLake PlacidBoard Heard from Beverly Ouderkirk and her impressions on sharing a superintendent…

Tom Obrien is sitting just to the left of Mr Shafer at the other end cap of the table.. Obrien is the Principal of St Regis Falls High School. He says you’re going to have to assess things like how much time and effort it takes for a superintendent to get the job done at each school…

As the discussion continued, School Board President Deb Lennon asks Mr Shafer about the level of response school boards might expect when it comes to recruiting a superintendent who would be shared by two districts.   He tells the board it’s definitely not the norm… In fact, it’s unique to the north country, even though there are already two districts in our region already sharing services.


Shafer says when you post a position like this, it may attract a type of person that is looking for a specific type of challenge; Someone who is looking for an opportunity to extend their creativity and to rise to the challenge… Since this has shaken out in the past few weeks, Shafer says he’s already had one applicant express interest in the concept…  Essentially, it’s going to be a subset of the applicant pool.. But, he says you could draw a specifically focused group of people who may be interested in the specific type of challenge created by a shared arrangement..

One of the questions that arose at the meeting was from Lake Placid’s School Board president Mary Deitrich who was in attendance at the meeting, she posed the question regarding the questions of having building principals taking more of a lead in the budget process, and participating on a more active role. Lennon says all of the administrators in theSaranacLakeCentralSchool Districtare very involved in the process already, and Asst. Superintendent Dan Bower says it would be difficult for each Building Principal to contribute on a larger scale because they’re specifically tasked to be responsible for their specific areas of expertise..

One other question raised – How does a shared superintendent in two schools like Lake Placid andSaranacLakerelate to a super in say a district which is huge like a county system inVirginiawhere there are 20,000 kids… Steve says they’re putting together one budget… and he says there is a difference between putting together a budget which deals with one specific set of collective bargaining agreements..  In our case there would be two sets of agreements, multiple budgets, multiple preparation, and in some cases boards will also work with a community organization to help with the budget process…

Dennis says don’t just look at  sharing a superintendent, be mindful more about building the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses of each district and then finding ways o learn from, and build on the strengths.. It shouldn’t be just to save dollars, it should also be to focus on the kids to find ways for them to become strong students..

Shafer says the current motivation for school districts when it comes to the question of consolidation instead of combining districts..  It’s been brought up with our legislators specifically for these school districts, they received good response from the state, but the question of having the state creating a new category for any type of aid will most likely not add any incentive for the two schools to work together short of the incentives to work with Boces.. Deitrich says there is some incentive money available and out there that isn’t being spent but is also restricted and while available, still requires specific actions that may not relate to the particular situation in the case of Lake Placid andSaranacLake..

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