Fox takes the helm as Saranac Lake school superintendent

SARANAC LAKE – Diane Fox’s tenure as superintendent of the Saranac Lake Central School District is officially underway.

District Clerk Christine Fransen administered the oath of office to Fox at the start of Tuesday night’s Saranac Lake school board organizational meeting. It was Fox’s second day on the job.

“It’s been a really nice start,” the new superintendent told the Enterprise after the meeting. “I’ve had a lot of meetings. I’m trying to meet with all my administrators and other district leaders. I’ve had a lot of people just stop in to introduce themselves. It’s been very welcoming.”

Fox said she doesn’t feel overwhelmed yet but is in the “ignorance-is-bliss period, where I’m just gathering information and enjoying it.” She said she’s been impressed by the school board, saying its members work well together.

“I’m impressed with the honesty, but no egos,” she said. “Everybody’s opinion is counted and valuable. I look forward to working with them.”

This is the first superintendent job for Fox, who was previously principal of Beekmantown High School. She replaces Gerald Goldman, who stepped down in June after five years as superintendent. Her salary is $115,000.

Fox said she and her husband have sold their home and moved to Saranac Lake, satisfying a residency clause in the contract she signed with the district. She said they’re renting a home in the village.

“We’re here,” Fox said. “I’m a frequent visitor at Mountain Mist (ice cream), so you’ll see me there every evening. We’re down there in that direction so we can walk there very easily.”

In addition to Fox, incumbent school board member Clyde Baker and newcomer Shir Filler were also sworn in Tuesday. They were the top two vote getters in a four-way race for two board seats in May.

There were no changes in leadership of the school board. Debra Lennon was re-elected by her peers to another one-year term as the board’s president while Baker was picked to serve another year as vice president. No one else was nominated for either position.

During its organizational meeting, the board appointed a new director of school facilities to replace Lee Daunais, who’s retiring from the position. Local plumber Vernon James was hired at a salary of $57,000, contingent on him passing a civil service exam.

Among other business, the board formed a new, yet-to-be-named, ad-hoc committee to deal with ongoing education reform issues. It will include school board members, administrators, teachers and community residents.

Don Carlisto of the Saranac Lake Teachers Association said the idea came up in discussions with Lennon and board member Katie Fischer.

“I think the goal was to try to start to explore some of the concerns we all have about the reform agenda, and try to learn together about the best ways to express those concerns that we all have,” Carlisto said. “The model, I think, is the district’s Budget Advisory Committee. If we can get people around the table and have a conversation, we can really do some good work.”

The formation of the committee comes after a year in which education reform initiatives – the implementation of new Common Core standards, a state-imposed teacher evaluation system and a standardized testing backlash – made headlines both locally and around the state.