Increase in superintendents leaving the top job

The number of school superintendents leaving the profession in New York has increased, according to the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

New York has over 700 superintendents overseeing education in school districts and BOCES programs across the state. In Central New York, superintendents for Syracuse City School, Liverpool Central School District and Altman Parish Williamstown Central Schools have announced their retirements.

“Typically, we’ve been averaging around 40 to 45 retirements among superintendents a year statewide,” said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the state council. “This past year, we had over 60. But it’s possible that some of those are people who would have retired earlier in the last two years, but wanted to remain in their positions, feeling it would not be responsible to abandon their districts during the pandemic.”


What You Need To Know

  • New York state schools and BOCES are led by more than 700 superintendents
  • On average, around 40 superintendents retire each year in New York
  • Recently, more than 60 superintendents retired in the state
  • In Central New York, superintendents for Syracuse, Liverpool and Altman Parish Williamstown schools have announced retirements

Lowry added optimistically, he is seeing high interest in people becoming superintendents. They have at least 30 participants in the superintendents development program.

Two out of those more than 60 that are retiring have both served their school districts for almost four decades. That is not all they have in common.

Liverpool Central School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Potter’s career started with APW Central School District as a physical education teacher.

Syracuse City Schools Superintendent Jaime Alicea started as a teaching assistant at Seymour Elementary School.

Alicea and Potter shared some of their favorite things about the job.

“It’s the kids, who, all of a sudden, when the light bulb goes off, when something connects,” Potter said. “And it really is encouraging.”

Deciding snow days was among their least favorite.

“I was up at 3:30 in the morning, having conversations with my staff at four – 4:30 am,” Alicea said.

Both have seen education change a lot over almost four decades. Districts continue to evolve to try keep up.

“In addition to all of the academic aspects of our requirements, what are we doing? We’re doing a lot of parenting of kids. We’re doing a lot of supporting and helping parents in their own right. We’re doing a lot of things with what we need to do to support kids to be able to come to school,” Potter said.

The pandemic brought administrators major challenges and increased responsibilities. Both were supposed to retire earlier, but recommended to their district rather than leaving.

Alicea delayed retirement because of the pandemic demands on schools.

“My kids, my students, they needed me. My staff needed me. And I needed to be here to continue to provide support,” Alicea said.

They also gave credit to the staff and teachers that support them.

“We have a lot of, you know, leadership support in the district. You know, obviously, you can’t do this alone. We’re using our bus drivers to deliver food, our counselors going out to families in their homes and really helping,” Potter said.

They shared what they think are the keys to success, words of wisdom to their successors.

“Attending school functions, attending community events, making sure that the parents see them, communicating, involving people and listening to people,” Alicea said.

“It is about what I can do for others, and I think that’s been my beacon or my focus,” Potter added.

Both said their main focus has been to inspire students.

Alicea said, “When I talk to my kids, especially ENL kids, I say, listen, ‘the only person who can limit you is yourself.’ Everything that we do is always with the students in mind.”

Potter echoed that standard. “Show me how it relates to a student,” he said. “Because I don’t want to be making decisions for adult reasons, I want to be making decisions for kid reasons.”

Alicea plans to continue community involvement in Syracuse, as well as caring for his parents in Puerto Rico. Potter hopes to continue working and help schools evolve with a focus on facility improvement plans.

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