An era of partnerships

Joe Coleman believes in the power of partnerships.

Throughout his professional career, the Baldwinsville resident has consistently found this philosophy successful and, having recently been announced by the Democratic Party as a candidate for the first district county legislator position, he intends to bring his belief in partnerships to the legislature.

Coleman has lived in Lysander for 42 years with his wife, Kathy, of 47 years. They have five children, all of which attended Baker High School, and 12 grandchildren.

"It's a good place," he said about his choice to settle down in Baldwinsville. "It was important to set roots and the school system was excellent."

Having been a member of the system, Coleman should know. After earning his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his master's from the University of Maryland, he taught biology at Baker High School in 1967 and later served as the school's principal from 1976 to 1986. From there, he became the director of secondary education (seventh through 12th grades) at Cortland City Schools. This position provided him with the opportunity to create a significant partnership.

Working with the Department of Social Services (DSS) and SUNY Cortland, Coleman initiated a comprehensive prevention program for at-risk youth known as Graduation Requires Effort And Time (GREAT) Kids. At the time, statistics showed that 20 percent of incoming seventh grade students in the Cortland City School District were dropping out. Coleman saw an opportunity to maximize the three organizations' resources to curb the dropout rate.

Together, DSS, SUNY Cortland and the district envisioned and then created the program, which was the first of its kind in the state.

"We provided an opportunity for success for those youngsters and their families," Coleman said, and within two years, the drop out rate was reduced to less than 2 percent.

"A spin-off of the GREAT Kids program was a decrease in the cost of foster care," Coleman added.

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