Northville’s new superintendent ready for school year to begin

PHOTOGRAPHER:

New Northville Central School District Superintendent Dr. Sarah A. Chauncey inside the hallways of Northville Central School on Wednesday.

NORTHVILLE — With about a month until school begins, Northville Central School District’s new superintendent, Dr. Sarah Chauncey, is using her years of experience in information management to look at how the various systems that make up the district are used to ensure they meet students’ needs. 

Chauncey was hired unanimously by the district’s school board in March, but took over the position from retiring superintendent Leslie Ford on July 1. 

Chauncey, a native of a village just outside Syracuse, and her husband Steve always wanted to move back upstate after spending years in the New York City area, she said. So, when the position at Northville became available, Chauncey decided to investigate whether it would be a good fit for her. 

“When I interviewed and learned about Northville and learned about the community — the types of initiatives, what they believe in from an instructional and learning perspective, it fit so closely with my own beliefs,” she said. 

Northville, a district of only roughly 450 students, is much different from Chauncey’s previous job as superintendent of Rockland County BOCES. But, she said her time spent working for two smaller school districts in the state and a career in information management, at places like Citicorp and Morgan Guaranty, will help her only build on what Northville has already achieved over the years. 

The school board agreed. 

“Not only her experience within the school community, but also in the private sector as well,” said John Sira, school board president. “We saw that as a strong benefit to our small district.”

BRINGING EXPERIENCE

Chauncey earned her doctorate in information management from Syracuse University’s iSchool. During her time there, she said the core of what she was learning was based around systems.

“Education like any business is a system — a very complex system,” she said. 

Chauncey is taking that concept and implementing it into her work as a superintendent. 

To start, she’s looking at the district’s facility to see how it can be improved to create a progressive learning environment. That includes looking at how classrooms work and make students feel in the space. 

“I’m not just looking at curriculum and instruction. I’m looking at the hallways, I’m looking at the displays, I’m looking at how we’re taking advantage of this beautiful building,” she said, noting she wants to bring out the beauty of the school district. 

Some of putting this into practice includes looking at flexible seating options and whether classrooms allow for quickly getting in and out of groups, as well as whether hallway display cases are bright and showing off student accomplishments. She said building this vision is done while keeping in mind funding, too. 

Beyond looking at physical spaces, the new school chief has been meeting with staff and looking into data like student enrollment. 

STAFFING AND ENROLLMENT

Chauncey said she’s reviewed data from the last three years and district enrollment figures have remained steady. The district did recently enroll 18 students from nearby Edinburg and those students come in seventh grade and stay until they graduate high school, she said. 

“They’re a small district, but a solid small district and I don’t see right now the numbers going down,” she said. “I see them probably holding steady for a while.”

While enrollment doesn’t seem to be a challenge, staffing high school math classes is, the superintendent said. However, like many districts across the state and nation, staffing challenges are nothing new, Chauncey said.

She said the profession goes through cycles. 

“I think the cycle we’re in right now is that the profession isn’t as attractive of a profession as it once might have been,” she said. 

She said that’s for multiple reasons. Compensation is better, but in places like Northville it can be expensive for a younger and new teacher to live and find affordable housing. She said that’s something she wants to discuss with other people, with a focus on education.

“This is not new,” she said. “It’s happening in other communities as well.” 

She said areas looking to draw younger teachers have to ensure they can have teachers living in areas closer to where they work.  

“You don’t want people living an hour and half away to have to get here,” she said.

But, on the flip side, she said the district doesn’t have a problem retaining teachers. 

“The number of years many of these teachers have been here is impressive,” she said. 

Despite the challenges that may lie ahead, Chauncey said she is excited about the school year ahead.

“I think I’m looking forward to a year where we may have finally turned the corner on the pandemic and that we’ll be in school starting up all of the wonderful functions we’ve always had in person,” she said.

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A LITTLE BIT ABOUT DR. SARAH CHAUNCEY

Past Job: Rockland BOCES District Superintendent

Schooling:

  • Doctorate in information management, Syracuse University
  • Master of Educational Leadership, St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill
  • Master of Business Administration, New York University, Stern School, New York, NY
  • Master of Library Science, Syracuse University
  • Bachelor of Science, Education, SUNY Oneonta

Hobbies:

  • Research & Journaling
  • Walking
  • Music

Family: Husband, Steve; son, Charlie; daughter, Juliana

Favorite Author: So many…J. R. R. Tolkien

Favorite Song: Chopin — “Nocturne in C Sharp Minor”

Favorite Quote: “…only by reaching into the endemic imagery of each child can we proceed together in any mutual enterprise. All else is superficial, we will not have touched one another…” (The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter, Vivian Gussin Paley, 1990).

Favorite Mentor: Dr. Ruth Small, Syracuse University, iSchool

By Shenandoah Briere

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