School is once again underway across Central New York. North Syracuse students headed back Wednesday, Sept. 4, and Liverpool schools opened their doors Thursday, Sept. 6. Both districts had some changes in store for students and staff; read on to find out what’s new.
Both Liverpool and North Syracuse introduced new superintendents over the summer, under very different circumstances.
In Liverpool, former Executive Director for Secondary Education Mark Potter, who has been with the district since 2007 in various administrative capacities, was named as the permanent replacement for Dr. Richard Johns, who announced his retirement in 2012. Johns left the district in March for medical reasons and was replaced with Interim Superintendent Edward “Pete” Backus.
Potter served as an athletic director and principal at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown before coming to Liverpool in 2007 as the coordinator of academics and acting athletic director. At Liverpool, Potter was also the principal of the FOCUS program during the 2011-12 school year. Budget cuts closed down the program after just a year. He moved into central administration last year after Ellen Kuno’s retirement, taking over as executive director of secondary education.
Potter was one of 20 applicants, 12 of whom were accepted by the BOE, according to board President Patricia DeBona-Rosier. Five candidates were determined to be viable, and the board then narrowed the field to three. Potter was selected as the best for the job in part because he already has an intimate knowledge of the district.
“His knowledge of Liverpool and his passion for Liverpool set Mark apart,” Rosier said. “As an internal candidate, he already knew all the players, as well as the district’s strengths and weaknesses. This allowed Mark to have a different kind of entry plan than that of other candidates. Having worked in the district for six years in a variety of different capacities and jobs, he had already demonstrated his versatility and his ability to effectively inspire others. Mark’s student-centered philosophy drives all of his decisions and he has a genuine commitment to help Liverpool reach its fullest potential.”
In North Syracuse, meanwhile, former human resources director Annette Speach was appointed as interim superintendent after the surprise resignation of Dr. Kim Dyce Faucette in July.
Dyce left the district after two tumultuous years that included including two failed budgets, a race-based casting issue in the Cicero-North Syracuse musical “The Wiz,” the firing of softball coach Kerry Bennett and the suspension of a student over comments he made on Twitter about the budget. Under her severance agreement with the district, the NSCSD was to continue to pay her salary ($182,500) as well as cover her medical insurance for up to 18 months if she could not find a suitable position; she was hired by a Tulsa school district last month, absolving the district of that responsibility.
Speach, meanwhile, is a former special education teacher and building principal who first came to the district in 1985. She has been focused on district collaboration since taking over the helm.
“The theme of this year’s superintendent’s conference days is about working together and giving each other the time and respect we need to do our jobs well,” Speach said. “Our staff has been working very hard to pull everything together for the conference days and I can’t wait to share our collaborative efforts with everyone in the district.”
Liverpool’s redistricting process continues to move forward. With the input of community members and the board of education, the district expects to have the redistricting plan finalized by November of this year.
While the LCSD BOE has been discussing the need to redistrict for some time, the Redistricting Advisory Committee began actually developing a plan this past spring. The committee is made up of more than 60 parents, teachers and administrators in the district, and they are charged with gathering data and crafting a recommendation for new geographic boundaries, as well as program and student placements, in time for the start of the 2014-2015 school year. At least three parents and one teacher represent each elementary and middle school on the committee. The effort is being led by consultant Ellen Kuno, former assistant superintendent for elementary education. Their next meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the district office.
This is not the first time in recent history Liverpool has redrawn its district lines. The district closed Craven Crawford Elementary in 2002, citing declining enrollment districtwide as well as budget constraints. Those factors have continued to escalate, necessitating the current drive to redistrict.
At this point, the Redistricting Advisory Committee has reviewed six possible scenarios to determine how the district lines could be drawn. It is likely that several more will be reviewed before a final plan is presented to the board of education.
For more information, visit liverpool.k12.ny.us/webpages/lredistricting/index.cfm. The site also includes frequently asked questions about the redistricting process, as well as a map of the district’s current school boundaries.
As part of the 2013-14 budget, voters in North Syracuse approved a transition to full-day kindergarten in the district. The shift added 13 regular teachers as well as two special area teachers. The program, which is funded through state aid, will remain in place through the 2014-15 school year. At that point, the district will need a supermajority to continue to fund the program.
Morgan Road Elementary will be fully renovated this year under Liverpool’s capital improvement plan. As such, MRE students will be attending school at Wetzel Road Elementary, located just down the street. Wetzel was closed due to budget cuts in 2011. It housed the Liverpool High School FOCUS Academy from 2011-12, but that program, for struggling students, was closed due to budgetary constraints in 2012.
The North Syracuse Central School District, in collaboration with Contact Community Services, has been awarded a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant from New York State Department of Education. Through the grant, Contact will receive $622,000 annually to serve underprivileged students at Roxboro Road Elementary School and Roxboro Road Middle School. Through the funding, Contact will be able to provide before-, during- and after-school services at the Roxboro Road schools, including: tutoring, homework help, social and emotional development activities, health and fitness, career exploration, service learning opportunities, sports, arts and music and family literacy activities. Contact’s staff will facilitate referral to mental health or health services for students and their families, and provide case management services to the highest risk students. Additionally, they will also deliver behavioral intervention and anger replacement training workshops to the teachers and staff.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.