By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – When he was in first grade in the Greater Johnstown School District, young Bill Crankshaw counted to 100, and Mrs. Ruby Walter, his teacher, celebrated by singing “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window.”
In second grade, Mrs. Greco made sure his samples of cursive writing were submitted every time there was a contest. His penmanship usually won.
In third grade, Mrs. Ramsay enrolled him in every spelling bee.
One semester, the future Cooperstown Central School superintendent received 12 A’s. His dad, George, who spent his 42-year career at the Johnstown Knitting Mill, would give him 25 cents for each A – quite a cache for a 9-year-old.
It was in Johnstown schools that young Bill – his family has been in Montgomery County since the American Revolution, and he would become the first Crankshaw to get a college degree – developed a love of music.
“I played everything I could get my hands on,” he said.
After obtaining a music degree at Ithaca College – he focused on saxophone and vocal skills – and a master’s from St. Rose, he taught music for 14 happy years at Glebe Street Elementary.
He moved to Northville as elementary principal (2009) and Remsen as superintendent (2013) before arriving at CCS on Jan. 1, 2017, succeeding C.J. Herbert, who had died in an ATV accident the previous March.
In his four years at the CCS helm, Crankshaw’s often told people how much he loved the district, and how he hoped he’d be spending his career here.
A phone call a couple of months ago changed all of that.
It was David Ziskin, Herkimer- Fulton-Montgomery BOCES superintendent, who was leading the Johnstown search committee for a new superintendent.
“I think you’d be a perfect fit,” Ziskin told Crankshaw.“The name ‘Johnstown’ is the only school district
I would have replied to,” said Crankshaw in a Monday, Aug. 31, interview, three days after the news of his departure broke.
He was offered the job in 2-3 weeks.
Here, finding a successor may be a little more complicated, said school board President Tim Hayes:
ONC BOCES Superintendent Nick Savin, who will lead the search, is retiring, and will also be occupied with “his own transition.”
With Crankshaw expecting to start his next job “Dec. 1 or sooner,” the first step will be find an interim superintendent “who wants to take on the responsibility at this unprecedented time.”
When Crankshaw was hired, “we had a good amount of applications.” But with economic uncertainty, New York State’s requirements and COVID-19, “I can’t even begin to predict what the applicant pool will look like,” Hayes said.
The school board planned to begin that discussion when it met at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2.
He added, “I’m very pleased to have two principals in place, after a significant amount of turnover, who are really working hard to make sure our school is moving in the direction we need to, pandemic or not.”
For his part, Hayes said, Crankshaw is leaving two strong principals in place: Ann Meccariello, promoted from elementary- to high-school principal in March; and Morrisville-Eaton High School Principal Tracy Durkee, a nationally certified fellow of the Common Core Institute, hired in May as elementary principal.
In addition to the hometown draw, Crankshaw said he is looking forward to tackling the Johnstown district’s financial challenges.
His strategy, he said, is to determine “what education means in the community and how we’re going to pay for it.” CCS – the state’s COVID-related 20-percent cut in aid, $1 million, will accelerate that conversation – is going to have to answer the same question, but less urgently, he said.
During his four-year tenure, Crankshaw said he’s most proud of the creation of “a guaranteed and viable curriculum: We can tell you, every week, what’s being taught in K-12.”
He found a good staff in place, he said, but in the past four years, through “robust recruitment” of 30-some teachers, “we’ve attracted some amazing educators.”
Another necessary step, he said, was increasing the counseling department from 3½ positions to five, ensuring a full-time social worker at both the elementary and high schools. “We recognized the level of need,” he said.
After seven years of seeing each other on weekends, Crankshaw said he’s also looking forward to being reunited with his spouse, Wally Hart, Lexington Foundation executive director. The couple bought an Otsego Lake-side property in Hickory Grove, but maintained a home base in Gloversville, part of the Johnstown district.
As he contemplates his next step, the 30-year educator had an experience Sunday evening that confirmed his vocation.
He was invited to a private recital at Hyde Hall, organized by Rickey Calleo and Faith Carmichael, that featured Vicente Nunez, a Crankshaw pupil from Glebe Street.
At the time, Vicente’s family lived on an isolated farm, seven miles up a dirt road, beyond the reach of even a school bus. His father had returned to Puerto Rico, and no one in the family had been to college before.
Now 18, a trained singer, Vicente is off to college and a hoped-for career in New York City.
“This is an example of what can happen with the right educator,” Crankshaw said