News of Otsego County

Thomas Brindley

Oneonta High School celebrates 2021 graduation

Reilly Catan walks to get her diploma. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego)

Oneonta High School celebrates 2021 graduation

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA — Oneonta High School celebrated its graduation Saturday, June 26.

The ceremony was held on the football field adjacent to the school, where, in a common theme among graduates this year, speakers talked about struggling through COVID and the extra challenges associated with the pandemic.

“No other generation has felt more trapped in our hometown than ours,” Aidan Mackey said, a graduate tasked with giving the greeting. “I call upon all of you to forge your own path and to tell your own story. … Our expectations were set so low this year that anything we got back was an amazing experience.”

In total, there were 121 graduating seniors in the class of 2021, many of whom won scholarships and awards.

In addition to congratulating the graduates, Superintendent Thomas Brindley thanked the parents and staff for enduring through COVID.

“In some way, shape or form, you’ve all participated in school this year, and for that I’m grateful,” Brindley said. “Despite the craziness of this school year, it seems that these four years have passed by really fast. This class was an incredibly special group. This is more true now than ever before.”

Valedictorian Maximillian Madej gave a speech that encouraged his fellow graduates to do better.

“I know nobody wants to keep hearing it but last year was challenging for all of us,” Madej said. “A few years ago, I was given the simple advice to do better. In some instances, I succeeded and in some instances, I failed. But I’ve always tried my best. By doing better, we’ll all be happier and more fulfilled. ”

“We, the class of 2021, have shown we are kind and hard working and ready to move on and take on the challenges of tomorrow,” Madej said.

Valedictorian Maximillian Madej makes his speech. (Kevin Limiti/



Oneonta Outlines ‘Hybrid’ Plan For Possible October Reopening


Oneonta’s ‘Hybrid’ Plan

Allows Parents To Keep

Children Out Of School

‘We’re Giving … A Choice,’ Brindley Says

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to


ONEONTA – If the Oneonta School District reopens, as planned, on Oct. 13, parents can still keep their children at home, learning remotely, moms and dads learned at last evening’s Zoom public hearing on the reopening plan.

“Many districts who plan to open in hybrid, your child has to be there,” said Superintendent Thomas Brindley in one of three parent briefings Governor Cuomo ordered when allowing schools to reopen.  “We’re giving parents a choice.”

Drive-In Graduation Out, But OHS Seeks Novelty

Drive-In Graduation Out,

But OHS Seeks Novelty


ONEONTA – Superintendent Thomas Brindley wants to make sure that the Class of 2020 is celebrated, no matter what.

“These students really deserve it,” he said. “It breaks our hearts that we might not be able to all participate in the graduation milestones, but our mission is to put something together so that they can enjoy it.”

Since Governor Cuomo announced Friday, May 1, that New York State schools would be closed for the rest of the year, Brindley is working to try and figure out a plan for prom, graduation, the Senior Brunch and other celebrations for the class of 2020, who have already seen the cancellation of spring sports, tournaments and more.

“We’re exploring a lot of options,” he said. “Everything we do will have to be informed by state, legal and Department of Health guidelines.”

Initially, Brindley proposed a “drive-in” graduation or one where adequate social-distancing spacing would be laid out, but those soon proved to be untenable.

“When we can’t ‘police’ a crowd, it becomes problematic,” he said. “How do we physically space the cars or people rolling down their windows at a drive-in ceremony? Nothing is totally off the table, but we’re exploring other options.”

Among the top choices are a scheduled ceremony, where students would show up in small groups to receive their diplomas, or a virtual ceremony, creating a digital scrapbook of the day’s celebration.

“We’d put together the slideshow that we normally show at the Senior Brunch, and all the speeches would be recorded and played,” said Brindley. “We would show each student’s photo and list their awards when they receive their diploma, and at the end, we’d put a virtual tour of the school, since they won’t get to do a last walk-through. It’ll be a keepsake, so they could show their kids one day.”

It could also be a hybrid of both, said Brindley. “From the moment a kid registers for kindergarten, everything we do is set to culminate on graduation day,” he said. “We want to do something to
give them a good memory.”

Across the county, school superintendents are working to figure out how they can laud the class of 2020 in the era of social distancing.

“We’re surveying the students and parents on how we want to go forward,” said CCS Superintendent Bill 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.”

And Wendy Kiuber has designed yard signs to celebrate the Cooperstown Class of 2020 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.”

The mom of Ashley Kiuber, a member of the Hawkeyes girls basketball team that was headed to the state championship when Cuomo’s state of emergency cut it short, Wendy is collaborating with Colleen Donnelly, mom of Lady Hawkeye Kate Donnelly, in the undertaking.






By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special for

CDC images of coronavurus

ONEONTA – Citing an “abundance of caution,” over coronavirus, Oneonta Schools Superintendent Thomas Brindley announced moments ago that all schools in Otsego and Schoharie County will be closed for the next two weeks, starting Monday, March 16.

“As of our 2:30 call with the Department of Health, everything was business as usual,” said Brindley. “But two hours later, to receive the message we were closing was a bit of a shock.”

Superintendent Brindley Advises Oneonta Parents On Threat Of Coronavirus


Superintendent Brindley

Advises Oneonta Parents

On Threat Of Coronavirus

ONEONTA – Emphasizing “there are NO confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease” in New York State (and only 59 nationally), Oneonta Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brindley sent a letter home to parents today, offering cautionary steps they should take, and seeking to further reassure them.

“Please know that we, in any health-related case, work closely with the Otsego County Department of Health, (which is) working closely with the state Department of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control relative to this illness,” Brindley wrote.

In Oneonta, Data Show Stability, Even Growth


In Oneonta, Data Show

Stability, Even Growth

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Tom Brindley succeeded retiring Superintendent of Schools Joe Yelich in 2018. ( photo)

ONEONTA – Enrollment in Oneonta City Schools, it turns out, hit bottom with this year’s 10th graders.

The 105 sophomores comprise the smallest class, K-12, among the 1,738 students currently in city comprise.

What’s more, Oneonta’s schools have by far the largest enrollment, more than double second-place Cooperstown Central, among the 19 school district in ONC BOCES.

And, according to the annual “Live Births” compilation prepared by ONC BOCES Superintendent of Schools Nick Savin, it will continue to grow, at least modestly, for the time being.

“It’s a great situation for us to be in,” said Oneonta Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brindley, who was at his desk Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the midst of winter break when students and most teachers were vacationing.

Where Cooperstown Central, where “Live Births” are plummeting, is looking for ways to make cuts across the board, including football, Brindley can look at “staffing needs related to those numbers” with some optimism.

Yes, staffing it determined to some degree by the teacher contract, but there’s also room for “best practices,” he said.

Brindley agreed the addition of housing – the Silver Creek development in particular – has brought new people to the city. But also, families are drawn to Oneonta by jobs at the colleges or hospital.

The schools are an attraction, too, said Brindley, a former policeman who was promoted from high school principal to the top job when Superintendent Joe Yelich retired last year.

“But also, the Oneonta Central School District has a lot to offer its students,” he said, and on purpose.
Because of a wealth of extra-curricular activities, seniors grade with “very attractive transcripts.”

Beginning seven years ago, when he was appointed OHS principal, “we grew our clubs and organizations to grow an environment where there’s something for everyone,” whether the graduate it going into the workforce, the military or on to college.

“Whatever ‘next’ is,” he said, “it draws them in.”

The sophomore class, at 105, was a sharp reduction from this year’s seniors (134), according to Savin’s numbers.  But with some ups and downs, enrollment continued to trend upwards, to 140 (this year’s sixth grade) to peak at 152 (this year’s third grade).

The last “Live Births” analysis shows 140 kindergartners entering the Oneonta district next September, a next gain of six over the 134 seniors expected to graduate in June.

Citing Unfinished Construction, Oneonta Schools Delay Opening


Construction Incomplete,

Schools Opening Delayed

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

With summertime construction incomplete, opening day at Oneonta public schools has been delayed.

ONEONTA – For Oneonta public school students, summer can go on a little bit longer.

Students and their families who were ready to go back to school this coming Thursday received a surprising announcement this afternoon by email, text and a robo-phone call from Superintendent Tom Brindley: Opening Day has been delayed until Monday, Sept. 9.

“The classrooms under construction as well as associated hallways in the middle and high school are simply not at a state of completion that makes them ready for students, faculty, and staff,” Brindley’s email stated.

Injury Breaking Up Water Street Brawl Led To New Career


Injury Breaking Up

Water Street Brawl

Led To New Career

Hard Work, Hartwick Teaching Degree

Set Brindley On Road To Superintendent

A former cop, an injury forced Thomas Brindley to pursue another career path, and he was named Oneonta school superintendent Wednesday.  (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Exclusive

ONEONTA – Could Thomas Brindley, who will become the new superintendent of Oneonta City Schools on July 1 when Joseph Yelich retires, have been a police chief by now?

“I was an Oneonta police officer for seven years,” the assistant superintendent and former Oneonta High School principal said in an interview after the news of his promotion became public today. “I was 20 and a SUNY Oneonta student when I started with the department in 1987.”

But in 1994, breaking up a brawl on Water Street resulted in a career-ending shoulder injury. “I spent the next year convalescing,” said Brindley who became assistant superintendent at the end of last year. “And then I got the job at Hartwick.”

Brindley Succeeds Yelich In Top Post At Oneonta Schools

­­Brindley Succeeds

Yelich In Top Post

At Oneonta Schools

New Superintendent Former Policeman,

1st To Rise From Teacher To Front Office

ONEONTA – The Oneonta City school board has accepted the retirement of Joseph Yelich as superintendent and appointed his assistant superintendent, Thomas Brindley, to succeed him, effective July 1.

Yelich has served as superintendent since July 1, 2013, after serving as superintendent of the Waverly School District and executive principal in the Jamestown School District.

Before his current post, Brindley, a former city police officer, was high school principal for five years.    It is the first time someone has been promoted superintendent from within the school district, said Bill Grau, school board president.

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