Press-Republican

July 7, 2013

Fox begins as Saranac Lake superintendent

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — SARANAC LAKE — Diane Fox is now at the helm as Saranac Lake superintendent of schools.

It is her first post as top administrator, but the former high school principal is thrilled to be moving in.

She told the Press-Republican that she and her husband, Greg Claus, bought a house here and have just relocated from Clinton County.

“I have talked to my neighbors and promised them I do not belong in an episode of ‘Hoarders,’” Fox quipped in a recent interview.

“We’re here, enjoying ice cream at Mountain Mist.”

CHOICE POSITION

Fox left a position as principal of Beekmantown High School to lead Saranac Lake’s district. She said the move blends a love for the village and surrounding area with a new career challenge.

She and Claus traveled often to Saranac Lake from their previous home in Saranac, often taking the long way around to enjoy the mountain views.

Claus is a grade 12 economics and government teacher at Saranac Central School and will continue there, commuting back and forth. They have one daughter, Jamie, who is 22 and a college graduate.

“We used to find any excuse we could find to go to the Blue Line Diner or eat at Eat ‘n Meet Grill — we have always enjoyed Saranac Lake,” Fox said.

“When this particular position came open, I can tell you, this was the only one I applied for. We were looking for the whole picture, and Saranac Lake really offers that. It’s just beautiful here. People have been so welcoming.”

SEES POTENTIAL

Fox said plans to spend the summer getting to know the newly shuffled staff at district schools.

Day one was the move. “Day number two is really an opportunity to meet all the people who are here and get to know them and their strengths,” Fox said. “My hope is to take all that and utilize it to do the best we can for the students.

“There’s an awful lot of potential here. There is so much that is offered by so many different people. We have to make sure to unite all that.”

School principals and administrative staff have been shuffled in the district to mitigate cuts and adjust due to administrators who relocated; two Saranac Lake administrators have moved into Lake Placid’s schools.

POSITIONS FILLED

Budget cuts initially eliminated the position of principal at Bloomingdale Elementary.

But Fox said former Middle School Principal Trish Kenyon was moved to Bloomingdale to take that job.

Paul Leahy, former assistant principal, has become director of pupil personnel for the district.

Former Elementary School Principal Joshua Dann is now High School principal.

And Chad McCarthy, former director of pupil personnel, has become Petrova Elementary School principal.

The moves leave one non-administrative position open.

“The vacant position is like that of a teacher-on-assignment, one who has a disciplinary role,” Fox said.

FOCUS ON STUDENTS

But new eyes in new jobs bring a fresh outlook, she said.

“We’ll be able to look at (district operations) in different ways. We have to keep our focus on our purpose for being: to meet the needs of the students.”

Fox is a former teacher, having taught kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 5 and 6.

“I was an administrator for one year in the Saranac School system and dual principal for Cadyville and Dannemora before they closed.”

That, she admits, was a tough year and a difficult job, particularly because she had taught at Cadyville and Dannemora as a teacher.

“It was a hard year for me because I did it as an administrator. I had taught there for years. I still had to lead us to the end.”

The district here is also familiar with closing schools. Two smaller facilities in Lake Clear and at Lake Colby have been shuttered through budget cuts in recent years.

Fox moved on and became Cumberland Head Elementary School principal and then, for the last two years, worked as principal at Beekmantown High School.

Fox was hired by Saranac Lake at a salary of $115,000 per year.

TOUGH TIMES

She agrees these are difficult times for school districts, juggling levy constraints under the tax cap and state-aid cuts simultaneously.

But Saranac Lake is staffed with good communicators and a supportive School Board, she said.

“I’m looking forward to working with the teachers with the Annual Professional Performance Review process. We have begun some discussion in making the assessment process more meaningful for teachers and plan to narrow down our focus to a particular area for review.

“And that’s what we’re trying to do; we want to focus on something that will be positive for our students.”

Joining the Saranac Lake community has felt like coming home, she said.

“Both Greg and I are so honored to be a part of the community and so appreciative of the warm welcome. We walked down the street and said, ‘This is where we belong.’ We can’t wait to give back.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com