Focused on finishing her doctorate, Sarah Spross, an assistant commissioner in Maryland’s Department of Education, drove up last summer and closeted herself at Cooperstown’s Landmark Inn.
On Aug. 28, she turned on the TV and saw the news: Bill Crankshaw, Cooperstown Central School superintendent since 2016, had resigned to return to his hometown and the Greater Johnstown School District.
It clicked, and Monday, March 1, Spross was seated at Crankshaw’s former conference table at Cooperstown Central School, being interviewed on her first day as CCS superintendent.
“I wanted to return to country living,” said the new superintendent, who has lived in Baltimore for decades, but was raised in Millbrook and summered in the Goodyear Lake vicinity, “and to be impactful in a school district.”
She has an offer on a home in Cooperstown for herself and her 11-year-old son, and that morning had just completed a meeting with her leadership team.
COOPERSTOWN – Bill Crankshaw will be leaving Cooperstown’s school superintendent post Sept. 30. On Oct. 1, he will be succeeded as interim super by Romona N. Wenck, who retired last summer from Laurens Central as the longest-serving superintendent in Otsego County.
“We’re very fortunate to have her,” said CCS board President Tim Hayes a few minutes ago.
Meeting last evening, the CCS school board amended Crankshaw’s contract to allow him to leave at the end of the month to assume his new duties at the Greater Johnston School District in Montgomery County, where he will administer a system where he once studied.
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
COOPERSTOWN – Cooperstown Central School Superintendent Bill Crankshaw, here since 2016, is returning to his hometown as superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District.
Crankshaw was appointed by the Johnstown board last night during a special meeting. Under a five-year contract, he’s set to officially assume the duties as the Johnstown superintendent on Dec. 1 or earlier, pending arrangements with Cooperstown, according to the announcement.
COOPERSTOWN – The opening of Cooperstown public schools has been pushed back a month, parents and citizens participating at this morning’s Zoom meeting on the reopening plan were advised.
At-home instruction will be offered from Sept. 9, when schools were supposed to open, until Friday, Oct. 2; then current plans are for students to return to class that Monday, Oct. 5, said Supt. of Schools Bill Crankshaw.
COOPERSTOWN – Cooperstown School Superintendent Bill Crankshaw couldn’t believe it when he saw CCS on Governor Cuomo’s list of 107 schools that had not yet sent in their re-opening plan.
“Professionally, I’m offended,” he said. “There was a flaw in the submission process, and no school wants to be publicly shamed for a mistake.”
According to Crankshaw, the school board, after filing for an extension on its reopening plan, submitted the plan to the state Education Department Thursday, Aug. 6, one day before the Friday deadline.
However, he said, CCS missed it was also supposed to submit the plan to the state Department of Health, and since rectified the mistake.
“We are not in danger of not reopening,” he said. “But this just shows how little regard Cuomo gives to public education.”
On Friday, Aug. 7, Cuomo announced all schools in the state are cleared to open, but stopped short of demanding a reopening, leaving the final decisions to the district.
Under their submitted plan, students in each grade will be divided up into two “cohorts,” which will attend classes on campus two alternating days a week – Cohort A will attend Mondays and Wednesdays, Cohort B will attend Tuesdays and Thursdays – as well as every other Friday.
On the days they are not in class, students will use online curriculum, including pre-recorded lessons, projects related to in-person lessons and independent practice.
With concerns about connectivity in the more rural areas of the district, the school has ordered Wifi “hot spots” for students who have cell-phone service but no Internet access, and will also set up a socially distanced common area for students who wish to do their online learning on campus.
“We’ll have a 20- by 40-foot tent with a heater for cooler days,” said Crankshaw. “It will be monitored, and students can do their work in there.”
Students will be required to wear masks on campus. “That’s non-negotiable,” he said.
Crankshaw said the school is still working on a formal procedure to deal with any students who may begin exhibiting COVID symptoms during the day, including ordering testing and contact tracing. That plan will be in place before the start of the school year, he said.
Though elementary students were supposed to start returning to classrooms Sept. 21 – with online curriculum for two weeks following the planned start date of Sept. 9 – Crankshaw said the current thinking is to have all students return at the same time.
In Oneonta, schools will not open for in-person classes until Oct. 6, Superintendent Thomas Brindley announced last week. Instead, all learning will continue to take place remotely.
“We knew Cuomo would make some sort of decision, but because it’s been left to the districts, nothing has changed for us,” he said.
Similar to Cooperstown, Oneonta has reached out to families that do not have Internet access to figure out the best way to help them access online classes. “We’ve had approximately 40 families express some need for Wifi,” he said. “So we’re ordering mobile hot spots to give them.”
The school will also continue to distribute free meals the same way they did in the spring.
“Ultimately, we will come back to the building,” he said. “We want to create as normal a schedule as we can so we can return as seamlessly as possible.”
COOPERSTOWN – Wendy Kiuber wants to make sure that no Cooperstown senior goes unrecognized.
“As the Governor keeps extending the closures, all the parents of the seniors were just trying to figure out what we could do to support them,” said a school board member and the mother of Lady Hawkeye senior Ashley Kiuber.
She is being helped by Colleen Donnelly, mother of Kate Donnelly, another standout senior on the girls’ basketball team that was headed to the state finals when the COVID-19 state of emergency cut their season short.
After meeting with Emily Additon at The Copy Shop, Kiuber came up with the idea to design yard signs as a show of community support. “We wanted it to be a surprise for the seniors,” she said. “When they came in to pick up their packets for the week, every senior got a sign and a bumper sticker.”
With Governor Cuomo’s announcement Friday, May 1, canceling school for the rest of the year, Superintendent Bill Crankshaw is revisiting plans for the Class of 2020’s prom, graduation and other celebrations.
The seniors have already seen the cancellation of spring sports, state tournaments and more.
“We’re surveying the students and parents on how we want to go forward,” said Crankshaw. “We want them to play a part in creatively celebrating these students.”
Among the ideas being considered is a parade of the graduating seniors through downtown. “We want something that the community could enjoy from a safe distance,” he said.
Crankshaw is also considering a live graduation on the grounds of the school. “That one we have to think through carefully,” he said. “We have to work it out so we’re observing all the rules while still creating positivity.”
Across the county, school superintendents are likewise rethinking graduation in the era of social distancing.
“We’re exploring a lot of options,” said Oneonta Superintendent Thomas Brindley. “Everything we do will have to be informed by state, legal and Department of Health guidelines.”
“I’ve heard of schools doing drive-up graduations, where each student has their five minutes in the spotlight,” said Unatego Superintendent David Richards. “Other places are having the diplomas delivered door-to-door by school bus.”
Richards said he’s also had people locally suggesting using the Unadilla Drive-In as a graduation location, a suggestion he has not entirely ruled out. “We’re exploring multiple options,” he said.
In Oneonta, Brindley is deciding between a scheduled ceremony, where students would show up in small groups, or a virtual ceremony.
“We’d put together the slideshow that we normally show at the Senior Brunch, and all the speeches would be recorded and played,” he said. “We would show each student’s photo and list their awards when they receive their diploma, and at the end, we’d put a tour of the school, since they won’t get to do a last walk-through. It’ll be a keepsake.”
By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
With schools closed at least until April 29, Otsego County superintendents are planning for the possibility of a longer-term closure.
“Everyone is trying their best under very difficult circumstances,” said ONC BOCES Superintendent Nicholas Savin. “You have that tension of planning and doing the best for the students, with the thought of, ‘When are you planning to…?’”
Upstate, coronavirus cases have started to level off, but the virus is still active here. So far, there have been 45 cases in Otsego County, two of those ending in death.
Though children typically are not at risk for severe complications from the virus, they can have mild cases that spread to others in their orbit.
Savin’s role is to lead discussions among ONC BOCES superintendents as they determine what is best for their districts. Each superintendent must chart their own district’s course.
The uncertainty over the timing of students’ return has slowed plans for distance learning, but that is about to change.
In Cooperstown, Superintendent William Crankshaw and staff are meeting to craft a plan for more
in-depth teaching for the remainder of the school year.
“We are already in the stages of planning what instruction might look like if we continue to be closed,” he said.
So far, students have been working off packets that have been sent home at different times. Each grade, and in some cases each teacher, has decided the degree to which they have contact with their students.
Some parents have been critical of the level of guidance and involvement from teachers, while others have offered praise, Crankshaw said.
“It’s hard to call the learning packets instruction at this point,” he said. District staff is in the process of reaching out to every family to determine their level of internet connectivity, while trying to find ways of making distance learning “as meaningful as possible,” he said.
He expects to be able to give more details next week.
So far, Savin said, teaching plans vary district by district, often depending on the level of internet connectivity of students and teachers.
Oneonta Schools Superintendent Thomas Brindley said his teachers will continue to follow the approach they have been using all along.
“What we are doing now is working as well as we can under these circumstances,” he said. “We are always trying to do things better, but for now we are sticking with the instructional approach we have in place.”
His teachers have been using digital formats to connect with students. Like Cooperstown’s teachers, Oneonta’s are all following the same basic plans and covering the same content with grade levels, though their approaches and use of internet connectivity may vary, he said.
To Savin, the work and planning for distance learning will still be useful even if school reopens soon.
“We are going to learn a lot about the manner in which we can use the digital platform for learning and how distance instruction could take place,” he said. “There will be a lot of growth from this as people see that we have the capacity for distance-type learning. It will mean growth and professional development for the staff.”
COOPERSTOWN – CCS Superintendent of Schools Bill Crankshaw said he’s recommending Elementary Principal Anne Meccariello for a promotion to return stability to the high school.
“Anne’s been with the district 23 years,” said Crankshaw. “And she’s been in education for 28. Anne has a real sense of loyalty to the district. We are in need of consistency at the high school.”
The superintendent made the recommendation to the school board’s Personnel Committee after receiving High School Principal Kristin Butler’s resignation in February, effective July 1, after less than a year on the job.
Editor’s Note: CCS Superintendent of Schools Bill Crankshaw sent this cautionary letter to parents.
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Cooperstown Central School District has experienced a sharp increase in “vaping.” This dangerous trend is a common concern in almost all schools nationally. Locally, the most current Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2018) indicates that 44 percent of high school students, grades 9-72, in Otsego County have used vapor products. This is a staggering statistic and evidence for concern.
We plan to increase our efforts to protect our students from the use of e-cigarettes, vape pens, or juuls, which use a liquid solution comprised of nicotine, crystallized marijuana (THC) and other dangerous substances imbued with attractive flavors. Current policy addresses tobacco, nicotine and other substances that are prohibited from use by students in school. Regulation and our Code of Conduct are consistent with policy. However, deep knowledge of vaping by the general public, including parents and caregivers – and all threats associated with it – is either unknown, misunderstood, or misrepresented.
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.”
COOPERSTOWN – Cooperstown Central schools’ “crisis response teams” at the elementary and junior-senior high school levels have prepared an “excellent plan” to address concerns students and staff may have as the result of Friday’s arrest of phys-ed teacher Justin Hobbie on charges of distributing child pornography.
In a message sent to the community at 6:04 p.m., Supt. of Schools Bill Crankshaw said both teams had met today to discuss the “very serious charges” against Hobbie, 41, who was arrested at his Springfield Center home by state police and officers of the federal Department of Homeland Security.