By JASON SUBIK
The chief herald
Over the past several decades, the career paths of many New York State public school administrators have come to resemble that of a nomad, traveling from district to district, climbing the ranks of leadership, recognition and success, but often failing to take root in any one place.
Once common, but now rare, are the 30-year careers spent as a school building or school district manager, and even rarer are the careers that begin as teachers but end as teachers. ‘administrators in the same place.
The rarest case of all, and probably unique in New York State, is the case of the Greater Johnstown School District where the district’s three building principals began their teaching careers in Johnstown, after growing up in Johnstown. , and all three graduated from Johnstown High together. School in 1996.
Johnstown Jr.-Senior High School Principal Scott Hale, Pleasant Avenue Elementary School Principal Corinne “Corey” Cotter and Warren Street Primary School Principal Robert Kraemer recognize the unusual nature of their career path. Hale said he doubted there was anything else like it in New York State.
“Not that I know of, absolutely not,” he said. “I think it’s a surprise that we all work here, but there are a lot of people from the Class of 1996 who actually work in the neighborhood. There are also more teachers.
Cotter was the first of three principals to be hired in Johnstown in 2000 as a high school social studies teacher after graduating from St. Lawrence University. She was back at Johnstown High School so quickly that some of her students may have been in first grade when she was in senior year.
“I don’t think there were many” she said. “Yeah, I had a senior’s room in my first year, so that was fun. “
Cotter said she discovered her desire to get involved in education while in college. Hale said he knew what he wanted to do when he was in 4th grade.
“I was that child who liked to be in class, but I liked school because of the physical education classes” Hale said. “Sir. Satterlee was my [physical education] teacher, and Mr. Satterlee was truly one of my mentors that I admired when I was young, and I knew that was who I wanted to be. I loved athletics and I knew I wanted to be a physical education teacher, and I wanted to be a coach.
Hale and Kraemer were next door neighbors when they were kids, then became roommates at SUNY Cortland University, both studying to be PE teachers, and both were hired to teach gym classes at Johnstown in 2001. The order was hired first remains in dispute.
“What happened was I was called first, that doesn’t mean I was hired first, but we are competitive so I will say I was hired first. . “ Hale said.
“I do not believe it” Kraemer said.
Hale said then GJSD athletic director Greg Christodulu told him he was being hired as a physical education teacher, but did not tell Kraemer as he was going to call him for him next. offer another job as a physical education teacher in Johnstown.
“He said, the district is going to offer you the job, but here’s what I want you to do, when Bobby calls you tell him you didn’t get the job.” Hale said. “I’m like ‘wait, what?’ “
Hale said there were other candidates vying for the same two PE positions and none of them could be completely certain whether they would be hired or not.
“Bobby called me and said, ‘hey, did you hear? And I said, ‘yes I did’ and we just sat there with a break, ‘ Hale said. “And then he said, ‘Well, what happened? And I said ‘you tell me. And Bobby said, ‘Well, I got hired. They offered me the job and I accepted. And you?’ And I said, ‘Well, they told me I didn’t get the job.’
“Then there’s this awkward long silence, because we didn’t know whether we should be happy or sad for each other, and then I thought, ‘No, Mr. Christodulu told me to do that ! And then we just laughed, both very excited to have both been hired.
Kraemer said he always imagined working for the Greater Johnstown School District.
“I just remember leaving and graduating in 1996, and I remember thinking, ‘Dude, all I have to do to come back here is what I wanna do'” he said. “I never considered being a school principal, but I was definitely considering going back to some education direction. Back then it was about coaching and coming back for football and baseball and things like that. And over time, that has evolved. And I think the three of us are people who just love to grow and get better, and we’re never satisfied. We are always pushing each other and ourselves just to get ahead in any way we can. “
Hale and Kraemer began their teaching careers at Glebe Street Elementary School and Jansen Avenue Elementary School, two schools that have since closed because the GJSD cut enrollment far below grade when the three principals were district students.
“I think we have certainly been through difficult times, but there are similarities”, Kraemer has said how things were when he was younger compared to now. “We have always had a lot of support from our communities. And I mean, people have changed in terms of leadership roles, but we’ve always had really strong leaders in this district, which I think sets us apart. And we’ve always had very strong teachers who really dedicated themselves to our students.
Hale was the first of the three to become a trustee in 2013, when he became the high school’s deputy principal under then-principal Michael Beatty. After Beatty retired, Hale replaced him as high school principal and Cotter replaced Hale as assistant principal before becoming principal of Pleasant Avenue in 2018.
Kraemer was the only one of the three to leave Johnstown, becoming deputy principal and athletic director of Schoharie High School in 2016 before becoming principal of the old Knox High School in 2018, which has since been converted into an administration building, prompting Kraemer to relocate. to become principal of Warren Street Primary School.
30 years of change
Hale said the three principals have the unique perspective of having seen the Johnstown School District change for over 30 years of their lives. He said he believes the changes will ultimately lead to more positive results than most people now realize.
“I think growing up in Johnstown, you’re kind of stuck in your ways, and the three of us know the story of the neighborhood school change – with Bobby and I walking up Jansen Avenue every day, and Corey going to Glebe Street – to change to Princeton plan [grade level grouping] to move now to two primary schools ”, Hale said.
“The three of us were in Knox together, and now Knox is no longer a school for students from Johnstown,” Hale said. “We use it for other needs that we have in the region. The high school we came to know, the four-year high school, is now a six-year high school. So it was a transition to the new look and a huge difference from what we saw as kids grow up and then as teachers in the district. We’re still trying – the three of us, in the middle of a pandemic – always trying to figure out what it’s really going to look like at the end and the benefits we’ll see from some of the moves that have been made. “
Cotter said it’s also important to remember the things that haven’t changed.
“What has not changed is tradition” Cotter said. “Tradition is really important in the Johnstown School District, but what really happened is the collaboration. So the three of us collaborate on a daily basis and make things happen because we have to and because we want to. “
Kraemer said being a school administrator in the face of the coronavirus pandemic has been a very difficult time, but that he suspects that education in Johnstown will ultimately be stronger.
“I always say there is no manual, like you can’t go to St. Rose or SUNY Plattsburgh to get a manual on how to manage a building during a pandemic,” he said. “We are always trying to push and improve and learn. And boy, we’ve learned a lot over the past year and a half. And you know what? And at the end of the day, I think we have improved teaching in our schools a lot because of it.
“From a technological point of view, it’s amazing how much we have learned” Kraemer said. “It’s amazing how much our kids have learned over the past year and a half. I remember when it started and everyone had to go to Google Classroom, and everyone was panicking, “how are we going to do this?” but now we can all use Zoom, and the kids are so good with Google Classroom and all the online collaborations it allows.
It’s unclear whether the three directors will continue their careers for the rest of their careers working at Johnstown, although Cotter and Hale have said they both aim to advance to higher levels of administration.
“I’ve always set goals for myself, and obviously my goal one day is to be a district administrator,” Hale said. “When? I don’t know, but of course my first love is for this community and this school district, so if that happens in 10 years, I’ll be a happy person.
Cotter has stated that she definitely wants to progress in GJSD.
“I see myself here” she said. “Like Scott said, I have goals to get to the next level, in the district, not necessarily as a superintendent, but in the district. You know, whether it’s for the program and training or the deputy superintendent.
Kraemer has said he never wants to leave Johnstown, but he thinks it will be interesting when top jobs open up.
“It will be great when we are all competing for the same job” he joked.