Ted Waddell | Democrat
NEW SUPERINTENDENT THOMAS Palmer states that Tri-Valley is part of a nurturing community committed to education and its students. However, proposed school aid cuts by the state might lead to some painful decisions in the district.
Embracing the sense of community
By Ted Waddell
GRAHAMSVILLE While Thomas Palmer has been in the field of education for 18 years, the 2008-09 marks his first year as superintendent of schools at Tri-Valley Central School.
Prior to taking over the helm in the wake of Nancy George’s retirement, he served as principal of the Tri-Valley middle school for two years, and before that locally for two years as assistant principal of Sullivan West’s elementary school, and later the high school at Lake Huntington.
He graduated from Hoosic Valley High School near Troy, NY in 1983, and while attended Onondaga Community College had dreams of playing higher level baseball, but was sidelined by an injury.
After a couple of years sailing the high seas with the U.S. Navy as a sonar electronics technician, Palmer went back to school at a community college while working full-time as a mason, one of a series of jobs he’s had, including driving a furniture truck from Michigan to Miami on weekends.
He earned BA in education from SUNY Cortland in 1990 (in which year he subbed in 27 different school districts) and later a master’s in school administration from Appalachia State University.
“I think Tri-Valley is a very nurturing, intimate district,” said Palmer. “It’s a community that really embraces the kids in school as a central piece of the community, the school provides a lot of different vehicles for a lot of people, and parents are very supportive of the district’s budgets, as they have passed for years and years.
“It’s a very tight knit community, and I see a lot of compassion, as parents are very committed to the education of their children,” he added.
The district’s student enrollment is down 54 pupils from last year (1244-1190), and Palmer attributes this to tough economic times, adding he’s anticipating cuts in state aid to education as NY tries to deal with the recession.
“We’re looking at creative ways to still give our kids the best education we can, with different ways of using the resources we have. You batten down the hatches and try to be as frugal as you can.”
Palmer’s wish list for the future includes “a workforce type piece, a collaborative model to give kids two years of real experience,” building upon the theatre arts program designed by Lori Orestano-James and Seth Sternberg, expanding the ag-education greenhouse program, and “Bringing back the whole technology piece with wood shop and metal shop… to give kids experiences and opportunities outside the box.”
He said that in recent meetings with local business owners, when asked what they are looking for in employees, they had similar responses, as the employers said they were not so much interested in “the hard skills like math,” but value systems such as proper use of the English language, showing up on time, dressing appropriately for the workplace, and knowing how to ‘sell’ themselves to future boss.
“A lot of it goes back to the classroom,” said Palmer.
His philosophy on education?
“I feel as though we have an obligation, a responsibility to give kids the broad experiences to develop as critical thinkers, to be prepared to take a problem, analyze it, and solve it with multiple solutions with a solid basis.”
“I want to make sure kids have choices, but still keep to the philosophy of rigor, relevance and relationships, so they can be successful and sustain a society,” said Palmer.