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General Brown staff, community members interview superintendent finalists

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DEXTER — General Brown Central School District could name a new superintendent as early as this week.

Jack J. Boak, superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said Board of Education members will meet Tuesday, after they’ve had time to review feedback from school and community members about their three superintendent candidate finalists. He has helped guide the board through the search process.

“At that meeting, they’ll narrow it down even more,” he said.

From there, board members could decide to visit candidates’ school districts, or simply select their choice for superintendent. Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. will resign June 30 to become superintendent of St. Lawrence Central School District, Brasher Falls.

The three finalists — Leslie A. LaRose, deputy superintendent for Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES, Malone; Mary E. Curcio, superintendent of McGraw Central School District, and Cammy J. Morrison, assistant superintendent for curriculum/instruction at Gouverneur Central School District — spent all of Wednesday being interviewed by General Brown administrative staff, students, the food service director, the transportation supervisor, district office staff, faculty and instructional staff, instructional support staff and community members. They also toured the district with Transportation Supervisor Gary C. Grimm.

The top issues people wanted each candidate to address were their interaction with students, communication with the board and community members, and their relationships with elected officials.

Mrs. Curcio said she knows that as a brand-new superintendent the learning curve is “huge.” She helped the McGraw Central School District close a $1 million budget gap. She said she’s passionate about not having animosity within a school district, and even has led workshops on civility for school personnel. When Mrs. Curcio was asked by a community member how she’d get General Brown out of the potential insolvency it faces, she said the bottom line is sacrifices have to be made.

“You protect instruction first,” she said. “I believe in athletics; however, you have to look long and hard at what you can give up.”

When asked by incoming board member Brien M. Spooner why she applied for the position, Mrs. Curcio said her roots are here.

“I did my student teaching here,” the former math teacher said. If selected as superintendent, Mrs. Curcio said, she plans to rent a home within the district.

Ms. LaRose said she, too, has ties with the district. When she attended Watertown High School decades ago, she played in a tennis match against General Brown.

“I’m very familiar with the district,” she said. “This is the only superintendency I’m applying for, the only one I’m interested in.”

She said her sense of humor puts people at ease, and she likes to work openly and in collaboration with others.

Ms. LaRose then took notes when she asked community members what their priorities are. Glen Park resident Heather L. Ellingsworth said that the district cannot afford to lose more teachers, and that creative solutions have to be found.

“I think we can’t lose hope,” Ms. LaRose said. “My mother always said something good will come out of something bad. Everything is not broke at General Brown.”

Mrs. Morrison, who moved to Brownville in the fall, said General Brown “needs healing.”

“I’d suggest a fresh start,” she said. “Healing takes time, and building trust takes time. Anytime you have change you have an opportunity for growth. I’m not in a position to judge anything that has happened in the past. There are all kinds of leadership styles. We can talk about problems all day long, and no one is going to step into this position and change it overnight.”

She said she hopes she is the superintendent candidate chosen to build trust with the board and community.

Meanwhile, Mr. Boak said, all six board members will review feedback from school and community members this weekend, and decide whether they will bring back one, two or all three candidates for another round of interviews. The board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the General Brown room at the junior-senior high school, 17643 Cemetery Road.

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