New school superintendent settles into Lake Placid job
LAKE PLACID — Timothy Seymour has completed his transition into the role of Lake Placid school district superintendent. But while the recruitment, voting and appointment processes lasted months for the school board and the community, his personal transition was more like an overnight “blessing.”
Transitioning to the school district
The day after his appointment as superintendent this past spring, Seymour sat down with predecessor Roger Catania to discuss the procedures of transition. Seymour’s first goal was to form an understanding of the district and the community within it. They sent assessment surveys out to district staff and community over the summer, and nearly 400 residents responded in total. A blend of staff, shareholders, parents and students provided Seymour with a basis for how to approach community desires, student needs and COVID-19 issues.
“I want to be responsive to the moment,” Seymour said. “It’s finding the ‘Goldilocks’ zone where I’m able to learn the systems that are here, but simultaneously recognize that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and that pandemic is creating disruption in our everyday lives.”
Seymour isn’t focused on upending what Catania and the Lake Placid school board have created. He’s more interested in generating new ideas and enthusiasm in the community while amplifying what’s already working. After he officially began work on Aug. 2, Seymour met all the “major players” of the district and even met with Lake Placid shareholders to discuss the results of the community surveys. From these interactions, Seymour formed the basis for the “theme” for the district’s school year.
“Our theme is about empowerment this year,” he said. “It’s about following passions and learning interests that our staff and students have.”
Seymour is enthusiastic about encouraging exploration, rewarding curiosity and taking chances, especially in staff and students. But he also has an “organizational mind,” he said, and wants to achieve a sense of procedural symbiosis between Lake Placid schools. If a parent has two children of different ages who attend different schools in the district, Seymour wants to ensure consistency in policy and procedure between them, making it easier for students, parents and staff to collaborate. Above all, Seymour’s goal is to combine “clarity of purpose, of process, and clarity of outcome.”
Though he’s only 37, Seymour’s bounty of past leadership roles centered him as the unanimous candidate for superintendent. He’s held roles as a teacher, a principal, a program director, and most recently as the superintendent of the St. Regis Falls Central School District. Even as a grade-school student, Seymour was outgoing and “just about as involved as you can be and still get enough sleep to function.” A three-sport athlete, an actor in school theater and student government class president, Seymour’s natural leadership led him back to the school system. And as Lake Placid’s superintendent, he is more involved than ever.
Transitioning to the community
If you go to a playground in Lake Placid on any given day, there’s a chance you’ll run into the Seymour family on one of their “playground crawls.” Seymour says his 3-year-old son is a “playground kid,” and while he and his wife enjoy watching their son have fun and develop, it’s also an opportunity for the superintendent to be more present and approachable in the community. He carries his phone all day, sometimes answering 100 calls. He also likes to text himself noteworthy comments he hears from the community, making himself feel “very popular” in the evening when he’s accumulated as much as 50 text notifications. But this constant communication with the community isn’t just a placebo; Seymour wants to create a genuine dynamic with the folks of Lake Placid in which the community speaks, he listens, and “there’s an action that follows that hopefully makes their lives better.”
This sense of community is important to Seymour. In the past, he rarely lived in the same place he worked. But especially as the pandemic pressed on, Seymour realized that living in the community you advocate for is vital to the success of a community leader. When he spotted the vacancy for Lake Placid superintendent, something clicked. Seymour’s brother and wife, who also have a 3-year-old son, live in Lake Placid, and Seymour’s built-in passion for the area and its sense of community only boosted his drive to apply. Once he was appointed to the position, the puzzle pieces just kept fitting; Seymour admitted it felt like fate.
The weekend after his appointment, Seymour and his wife went house hunting in Lake Placid. They “lucked out” and found a house, placed an offer, and it was accepted. From their home in Malone, the Seymour family had four days to move in before his first day on Aug. 2, during which time the superintendent took the photo for his ID badge. He laughed, saying that in the photo he looks “so happy, but there’s just a look of pure exhaustion in my eyes. The timing worked miraculously but the effort was definitely there to make it happen.”
Now with the first week of school underway, Seymour is settling into his roles and the community with even more enthusiasm. He arrived at Lake Placid Elementary on Tuesday, Sept. 7 to welcome students for their first day of the school year, even carrying a student’s backpack as they walked to class. From district meetings to student greetings, Seymour is sure to be there with a smile on his face.
“This is a 100% dream job for me,” he said. “I love every aspect of it.”