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Two incumbents running for reelection at St. Lawrence Central School District

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BRASHER FALLS - Two incumbents will be on the ballot for two seats when voters in the St. Lawrence Central School District head to the polls on Tuesday.

James K. Lattimer first came to the board in April 2006 to fill a seat that had been vacated by Arthur Siebert. That term ended in June 30, 2006, and Mr. Lattimer was elected that year for a five-year term that expired in 2011. He was reelected in 2011 to fill a two-year seat that opened with the resignation of former board member William Sullivan.

Bethany L. St. Hilaire was elected to a five-year term in 2008.

Both seats on Tuesday’s ballots are for five years.

Both school board members will work with a new superintendent in July when Stephan A. Vigliotti Sr. takes over for Stephen M. Putman, who will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Mr. Lattimer, the current board president and also vice president of the St. Lawrence-Lewis County School Boards Association, said that was one of the reasons why he chose to run for another term.

“I didn’t feel comfortable leaving an incoming superintendent high and dry without someone on the board with some history. Pat Gengo and myself are the only two who have been on the board probably since Steve Putman was hired,” he said.

The board will be working with an experienced superintendent in Mr. Vigliotti, who currently serves as the superintendent of schools at the General Brown Central School District.

“One of the things we have always championed with Brasher Falls Central School is we want the best teaching staff and staff that we can get to teach our kids. In this case, I think with Steve’s experience he was the right choice,” Mr. Lattimer said.

A resident of the school district for nearly nine years after retiring after 39 years as a public health inspector in the Orange County Department of Health, Mr. Lattimer said he believes one of his accomplishments is the board’s working relationship with the district superintendent.

“I think it takes some board guidance to do that. There are times when the board and the superintendent haven’t agreed in some things. It take someone in charge to say this is the way things are, whether we agree or don’t agree. These things happen, and it’s not the end of the world. We have to agree to not agree sometimes,” he said.

The board works cohesively to make decisions that are best for the district, according to the board president.

“We listen to each other. We do discuss things, but for the most part anything that Steve has brought to the table, he’s thought about and researched and it makes sense to him. Sometimes he’ll offer some alternatives - ‘This is what I suggest and these are the reasons why. If you don’t like it, we can go this way, but it’s not my first choice.’ They are good, sound recommendations,” Mr. Lattimer said.

“I think the board members that have been on realize that this is how things sometimes get done. We’re not going to institute a program and things are suddenly going to start turning around. Steve started with the elementary when he started with Reading First. I think that has shown some results,” he said.

Mr. Lattimer said it’s a pleasure working with others on the board who are knowledgeable and there to help students and staff with the decisions they make.

“They are experienced in how things are done in terms of procedures and their school education background. That means an awful lot, knowing basically what you’re getting into. You’re not going in and saying, ‘I’m here and I want to make the school better.’ It’s ‘How do we go about this and what goals do we have to work toward,’” he said.

One of the goals for his next term is to get student scores up on state tests.

“The school report card didn’t appear to be as good as we hoped it would be. We want to get those scores up. I think we can work that. We could do better. It would be nice to be able to say we have a really good school district and our kids are college prepared if those students choose to go on to further education. They shouldn’t have to be taking remedial courses to prepare them for college,” Mr. Lattimer said.

Ms. St. Hilaire will be finishing up her first term on the board and decided to stay on for another five years.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision. I knew we had worked hard to get a new superintendent. I knew I at least wanted to work with him to see how much further ahead the school can get. Steve has put us on a good track. How much farther can we go?” she asked.

A graduate of St. Lawrence Central, she has been a resident of the district her entire life and, as a 16-year employee at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, her most recent assignment has allowed her to work at the Brasher Falls Therapy Clinic.

“I guess it’s because the school is really important to me. I went to school here. Chad and I chose to bring our kids here. They’re still young, 12 and 14. I want to be part of their education and our school district as long as I can be,” she said.

Reflecting back on her first five years, Ms. St. Hilaire said having solid leadership in the district helped the board.

“It was a very easy five years. Steve Putman is very good at what he does. I think financially he’s done a good job of keeping the school above water. Right now we are struggling having to use some of the reserves. We worry about what the state’s bringing in. None of us want a merger to happen,” she said.

Ms. St. Hilaire said the board has also seen progress in student achievement over the past five years.

“Graduation rates are going up. The staff, superintendent and administration have done a good job. When that’s happening, it makes a school board’s job pretty easy,” she said.

Like Mr. Lattimer, she’s looking forward to working with Mr. Vigliotti.

“He brings a lot of experience to us. I’m hoping it will be a positive thing for all of us,” Ms. St. Hilaire said.

Not everything has been easy during her first term though, she said. Among the more difficult aspects, she said, was having to cut staff because of budget constraints.

In her next term, Ms. St. Hilaire said she would like to see graduation rates go up.

“I wold like to see the test scores go up, even though they may get more difficult,” she said.

She would also like to work to ease some of the mandates so teachers can get back to the basics and the students can accomplish what they need to accomplish to be successful.

“Because of all the state mandates it’s hard when you have so much to do, to make teaching fun again,” she said.

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