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Smith to lead St. Regis Falls school board

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ST. REGIS FALLS – The “Year of Discovery” at St. Regis Falls Central School will begin with a new school board president, after the sitting vice president was chosen to lead the Board of Education for the 2012-13 school year at Tuesday’s reorganizational meeting.

Incumbent Vice President Mickey Smith, who was elected to another term on the board in May, was unanimously elected Tuesday to serve as board president and succeed former President Michelle Brockway, who decided not to seek re-election in May. Board member Tom O’Bryan, who has served as vice president in the past, was unanimously elected to reclaim that post on the board.

Board member Bill LaBounty nominated Mr. Smith for president, and board member Donna Bailey seconded the nomination. With no other nominations brought forward, the board voted 5-0 to select Smith to serve as president.

“I’m very honored,” Mr. Smith said after being named president. “I don’t take this position lightly. I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

During discussion of the vice president, Mr. O’Bryan nominated Mr. LaBounty, but he declined that nomination and instead nominated Mr. O’Bryan for the position. The board voted 5-0 to select Mr. O’Bryan to serve as vice president.

“I think you do a great job,” Mr. LaBounty told Mr. O’Bryan later in the meeting, explaining why he declined the vice president nod and supported his colleague instead. “I have a lot of respect for you and your ideas. That’s why I nominated you.”

During the reorganization, Board Clerk Erin Brockway administered the oath of office to new board member Larry Fraser. Mr. Fraser was elected to his first term on the board in May along with new board member Nadine Butler-Sochia. After Mr. Fraser was sworn in, the board voce president mentioned Mr. Fraser’s “impressive resume” and asked him to explain why he chose to run for the school board.

“It’s a way to help out with the school,” Mr. Fraser told his colleagues. “I thought it would be a learning experience.”

Also on Tuesday, the board decided on a theme of “Year of Discovery” for the next school year, following this year’s theme of “Year of Possibilities.” That decision came in a 3-2 vote, with Mr. O’Bryan and Mr. Fraser casting dissenting votes after Mr. O’Bryan brought up the need for a unified mission statement rather than a school theme.

Principal Marc Czadzeck suggested “Year of Discovery” as a way to acknowledge the current relationship between St. Regis Falls and Brushton-Moira Central School, which includes the securing of a local government efficiency grant to study consolidation options between the districts.

“We’re going to be discovering some really, really significant, important activities between the two schools that could very well impact the future of the two schools as we know them,” he said.

Shared Superintendent Beverly Ouderkirk said she liked that theme and thought it followed “Year of Possibilities” very well.

“Discovery is going to be important,” she said. “Discovering what works and what doesn’t.”

Mr. O’Bryan, however, referred to the new school year as the “year we’ve got to put everybody on the same page” and said the school should revise its mission policy to state its clear goals and a clear direction in its educational process. Displaying a bag of different-sized puzzle pieces, Mr. O’Bryan said the people in the school community are like pieces that do not fit together, and the district needs to look at the big picture to understand how the pieces fit together.

“We have to know what the box looks like. We have to know what our goals are,” he said. “It’s not important what the slogan is. It’s important what we spend our time on. The problem I’ve seen for six years is everybody is not on the same page.”

In his time on the school board, Mr. O’Bryan said, the biggest issue he has experienced is a lack of communication and understanding as the school, in accordance with its current mission statement, tries to be all things to all people, who do not always support and believe in the school.

“A lot of people want us doing a lot of things. We’re being pushed in all directions by all people,” Mr. O’Bryan said, reiterating the need for a revised mission statement. “I can’t imagine going another two years without addressing the current problem.”

Ms. Ouderkirk said she felt the school could move its Citizens Budget Advisory Committee away from a strictly budget focus and give it a broader focus to give the school a clearer mission, while Mr. Smith also suggested involving the school’s Shared Decision Making Committee in the process.

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