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Robert Dufour

Eldred Central Schools’ new chief is a familiar face

By Dan Hust
ELDRED — January 21, 2011 — The man who began his educational career at Eldred Central School as a substitute teacher in 2002 has just been named the district’s superintendent.
Robert Dufour’s meteoric rise could be considered even faster when you take into account the fact he became interim superintendent last July – just eight years after joining Eldred’s staff.
At last Thursday’s board meeting, Dufour’s temporary post was made permanent, when the school board voted unanimously to give him a 31⁄2-year contract starting out at $127,500 a year.
“He’s a very professional, capable guy,” remarked Board President Doug Reiser, who said the board felt a $20,000-plus search wasn’t necessary with Dufour already in the seat. “He’s so task- and goal-oriented. He’s just done a tremendous job for us.”
“I’m very excited about it,” Dufour confirmed this week. “It’s something that was in my long-term goals.”
He envisioned taking on such challenges in a couple of years or so, but last year’s firing of Supt. Berneice Brownell led the board to ask if he’d fill in as interim supt.
Dufour accepted, drawing on not just his educational experience but his former career.
“I spent 22 years in the private sector,” he explained. “I owned or ran private security and investigation companies.”
Dufour had gone to college to be an educator, earning a bachelor’s in history from St. John’s University in 1982.
But when he found the salary insufficient to pay his college bills, “I kind of made a detour for the next 20 years.”
“My last position was with a firm based in the Bronx, where I served as Director of Operations supervising five offices up and down the East Coast, with over 500 employees,” he recalled.
But the Dingmans Ferry, PA resident eventually found something closer to home – and back in education.
He took a $50/day job as a sub at Eldred.
“It was basically a career change,” he said.
More like a life change – then-Supt. Ivan Katz recognized leadership potential in the new hire, who had subsequently completed his master’s in special education (from SUNY New Paltz) and had landed a full-time job teaching special ed students at ECS.
Katz offered Dufour the opportunity to earn his administrative certification, and in 2006, Dufour completed the coursework necessary to become a school administrator.
His first job at that level was as Eldred’s director of pupil personnel services, then director of instructional services, where he was serving when the board came calling last year.
He hoped the interim superintendency would evolve into something permanent, turning down job offers elsewhere.
“I like it here. I like the community here,” he related. “It’s where I first started.”
Now Dufour will guide the education of that community’s children until at least June 2014.
He’ll get to continue the innovations and programs he’s helped introduce to the district in the past decade, including updating instructional technology and expanding college-level offerings.
He’ll also get to deal with the district’s oft-publicized travails – including one that is not unique to Eldred.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be everyone’s biggest challenge: the financials,” he acknowledged, adding, however, that ECS is in a good fiscal position currently.
That’s one reason he’s pursuing his doctorate in educational administration from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Board President Reiser has full confidence in him.
“He’s guided our district through some of its worst days,” Reiser affirmed, noting the entire board shares his confidence.
Dufour plans to maintain that confidence, with the help of 120 staff – 70 of them teachers – all working toward the betterment of 688 students and their families.
“You have some really good people in the community, in the institution,” he observed. “The strength is the people, the faculty, the staff, the support staff, the administrators ... and it’s not so big that they don’t care.”
Indeed, “caring” is a word Dufour takes seriously.
“My primary goal,” he said, “is to consistently improve the opportunities our students have in as fiscally responsible a manner as possible.
“... We need to equip them for the future.”

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