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LP School Board says good-bye to three members

July 6, 2012

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid school board has bid farewell to three of its members.

The Tuesday, June 26 board of education meeting was the last for Cathy Johnston, Jill Cardinale Segger and Jerry Blair. Johnston and Segger did not seek re-election this year, while Blair is stepping down early to take an interim superintendent position with the Northeastern Clinton Central School District.

School board President Phil Baumbach said the three members have done "fine work" over the years and thanked them for their service.

"With the members leaving, they take an awful lot of valuable experience and knowledge," Baumbach told the Enterprise.

Johnston, who owns Ruthie's Run with her husband Wayne, served on the board for a total of 19 years. She started in 1990, when her son was 5 years old, and served as board president when the district hired Ernie Stretton as superintendent.

She left the board in 1997, returned in 2000 and stayed on for 12 straight years.

"It's been interesting," Johnston said. "Helping children is always fun, and educational philosophy changes over time."

Johnston said she's proud of the board's accomplishments over the years, especially the addition of foreign language programs at the elementary school, Advanced Placement classes at the middle-high school and programs for struggling students.

She said the last few years, which have included staffing cuts and controversies with administrators, have been tough, but she's confident the district will pull through.

Johnston said some of her fondest memories are presentations by students on senior projects, and getting to hand her son, Geoffrey, his diploma when he graduated in 2003.

"And I'll remember the people I served with," she said, "because they were always respectful of each other's opinion. That's important. I know of other school boards that couldn't work together."

Baumbach said Johnston was the go-to person for questions on the district's budget and board procedures.

"That expertise will be missed," he said.

Segger, who served on the board for four years, said part of the reason she decided not to run again is because she's busy running her business. She owns The Pines Inn and Duncan's Grille on Saranac Avenue.

Segger also acknowledged that the last few years have been difficult for the school district. Nevertheless, she said, "I enjoyed my time on the board and wish I could have done more."

Segger said she plans to keep attending school board meetings whenever she can.

"The difference is if I have to work that night, I won't feel bad if I can't be there," she said.

"I'm happy about everything we did," Segger added. "I hope we can pull together and make the district great again for the children, because that's what it's about."

Baumbach noted that Segger brought a strong business background to the board.

Blair has been with the board for two years. He told the Enterprise recently that he would prefer to finish his term but that much of his time will be taken up by the interim superintendent job.

"I enjoy what I do," he said earlier this month. "I hate to step out of it. But the obligations that I've got in the school that I'm going to are too great to put the time in."

Blair has nearly two decades of experience as a school administrator. He served as high school principal and superintendent for the Lake Placid school district from 1980 to 1987, and as district superintendent from 1987 to 1997.

"It's tough to find what to say about Jerry," Baumbach said. "He has 40-something years of education experience; that will be hard to replace."

Patti Gallagher, Mary Dietrich and Martha Stahl were elected to the school board in May, replacing Johnston and Segger and defeating incumbent Joan Hallett-Valentine. Since then, Blair was hired by Northeastern Clinton, and the board has reviewed applications for his seat and interviewed interested individuals.



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