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Lake Placid school superintendent to retire

Lake Placid Central School Superintendent Roger Catania waves to students during the senior car parade in June 2020. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania will retire at the end of the school year.

The school’s Board of Education accepted a letter announcing his retirement at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Catania has served as the district’s superintendent since 2013, but he’s had ties to the school for far longer. He was a counselor at the high school for several years, starting in 1997.

The 58-year-old Saranac Lake resident plans to stay here after he retires and spend more time with his family.

“It was my sense that it was time to re-shift some priorities in my life, and maybe put my family a little higher than they have been,” he said.

Catania’s retirement will mark an end to a 37-year career in public education, which included a stint as a professor at Alfred University, and other teaching and counselor jobs at Gilchrist High School and the J.B. Thomas Junior High School in Oregon.

Catania returned to Lake Placid to take the superintendent’s role in a time when the school was facing challenges — both financial and administrative. He succeeded former superintendent Randy Richards, who became a controversial figure in Lake Placid after the middle-high school principal at the time, Katherine Mulderig, filed a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint alleging he tried to reassign her to the elementary school for sexist reasons. The EEOC validated Mulderig’s complaint, but despite major backlash against Richards from the community, the school board did not remove him. When new school board members were elected, they chose not to renew Richards’ contract, and Catania was brought in to replace him.

Catania said the best part of his superintendent job has been interacting with all of the students.

“Absolutely the students make it all worthwhile,” he said. “The rewarding part is knowing that I helped shape and influence how our school will impact their lives, and I do my best to have the school be as valuable and meaningful an experience for them as it can possibly be.”

Even after all these years, Catania still starts his school days with greeting as many students as he can. At the start of every school year, Catania has always be seen outside both the middle-high school and the elementary school, high-fiving and greeting kids as they returned from their summer vacations.

“I’ll miss the students a tremendous amount,” he said.

“Any success I have had here is really thanks to the outstanding faculty and staff we have,” Catania added. “It’s really their work that makes all the difference. I have the pleasure of working alongside them. I have the pleasure of seeing just how good and talented they are, how much they care. Sometimes I’m in awe of all they can accomplish.

“I’m so grateful for the support that everybody has shown me, especially during these past eight years, that includes our students, parents and members of the community who interact with us at the school,” he said.

Catania also thanked the board of education for its support.

“We have a school board that has its priorities right,” he said. “The school board members focus on students and the interest of students. They have been so supportive of me, and I’m really grateful to them.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you to every member of our school community,” he said. “This has been a wonderful experience for me. I couldn’t have asked to be superintendent in a better place with better people.”

At the board’s meeting, President Richard Preston thanked Catania for his leadership.

“When I chose to run for school board, I was asked if I was serious, followed by, ‘Are you crazy? The school is a mess.’ By the time I began my tenure here, I sat on the board and I said, ‘Where is the mess?'” Preston told Catania. “That’s due to the fact that in the short time that you were here, you managed to stabilize the district fairly rapidly.

“Thank you for your years of service. Thank you for the solid ground you’re leaving us with.”