Kristin Butler Just What’s Needed
At High School, Crankshaw Predicts
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – In second grade, Kristin Butler already knew what she wanted to do.
“I wanted to be just like Mrs. Kiser,” the new CCS junior-senior high school principal said in an interview this afternoon. Deborah Kiser “was one of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known.”
Butler, CCS ’99, a SUNY Geneseo graduate, fifth-grade teacher locally and, for the past year, director of curriculum & development, will take the helm of the 444-student academy on Linden Avenue on July 1, succeeding interim principal Jim Brophy. Her appointment was announced on Tuesday.
“We’re 100 percent thrilled that Kristin is going to be leading at the junior-senior high school level,” said her boss, Superintendent of Schools Bill Crankshaw. “We are looking forward to great improvement, and great success for her in that that role.”
After Principal Donna Lucy resigned last year, the school board launched a nationwide search, “highly concentrated on New York State,” he said, but they were unenthusiastic about the outcome.
Given his and the school board’s current focus on “instructional leadership,” Crankshaw then posed the idea to Butler, and “it really appealed to her,” he said.
“She’s child-centered, she cares about the staff, she has connections in the school and the community,” the superintendent said, adding, “I think what we need at this time is less of the unknown and more of the known.”
The two-month overlap with Brophy will help ensure a smooth transition, he said. The new principal is already moving from the elementary school to the high school.
Born downstate, she came to Cooperstown at age 3 with parents Bruce and Lorna, who both joined Bassett Hospital. Her father was human resources vice president when he succumbed to cancer in 2012 at age 52; her mother is still a physical therapist there. A younger brother, Brett, is a project manager in San Diego.
Her happy disposition, she believes, came from growing up in an “intact family unit. We cared about one another, spent time together, had dinner together.” Her parents “set expectations and set limits.” (Her in-laws, she said, created a similar atmosphere for her husband.)
At Cooperstown High School, Butler got her first taste of leadership, as volleyball team captain, by participating in teacher Wayne Weir’s ACT (Assisting The County Together), and by getting specific training at RYLA, the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards conference.
As captain the CCS’ Science Olympiad team, she had to live up to adviser (and math teacher) Thomas Good’s expectations; he gave her as much responsibility as he thought she could handle.
Among other things, young Kristin learned how to make hotel reservations and worked out the busing logistics to competition at West Point. She also had to assess the relative strengths of her 13-14 teammates, and pair them up to optimize their performance.
Graduating in 1999, she attended SUNY Geneseo, where she knew the strengths of the curriculum played to her ambitions. She graduating with a double-major, in elementary education and special ed. (Since, she earned her master’s in educational administration online from Jones International University in Colorado.)
Graduating from Geneseo, she was off to Virginia’s Henrico County, near Richmond, where Dan Butler – the two had known each other since age 11, and had been dating since their junior year at CCS – was working. She joined the countywide school district, teaching fifth grade.
Planning a family of their own, the Butlers soon returned to Cooperstown area “to be near our families.” She joined Cooperstown Elementary, teaching fifth grade all but one year.
The couple now has three children, a daughter, 11, and two sons, 8 and 2. And that helps her on the job, she said: “Being a parent gives you more perspective as a teacher and administrator. It helps you understand where people are coming from.”
Being promoted within the district, she is known to the teachers she will lead, and she knows them – as “wonderful team players. They work together for the good of their students.”
The first year, “I don’t want to change a lot of things,” she said, but asked about situations she might want to address, she quickly mentioned two.
One, “chronic absenteeism.” What are the social and emotional obstacles that can be overcome so all students “want to be here,” she asked. “To be successful in the outcomes, they have to be here.”
Two, substance abuse – vaping, she said, is the front-of-burner challenge right now. “We want to make sure students are well, and are making good choices,” she said.
Over two years, Crankshaw, who’s had the opportunity to appoint his own transportation director, director of facilities, athletic director, plus Brophy and Butler in the jobs they are now leaving, said, “I hesitate to say rock star – but the team we have in place is going to move CCS forward to high degrees of success.”
“I’m excited for students, I’m excited for families” and the new principal – he called her “a dynamo” – is going to have “great success in that role,” he said.