Sunday, March 18, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Greetings Readers,

Happy day after St. Patricks Day!

This week we feature an e-newsletter that focuses primarily on the public education arena. We have a principal of a large Rochester area school district and the “Youngest Superintendent of Schools in New York State.” In addition, we have kept up on the entrepreneur front by featuring a local business owner with a special relation to one of us.

My Spring break was filled with much travel. Unfortunately, it was not the usual type of Spring break traveling. Rather it was a few trips back and forth between my hometown, Kirkwood, NY, (near Binghamton), to Geneseo for a meeting with the Town of Mount Morris Main Street Merchants, and our Business Ownership Training Course. They were both productive and enjoyable, but they took a toll on me.

While at home, I had the opportunity to do some substitute teaching on Monday, Thursday, and Friday in the Windsor Central School District, my alma mater. I was the utility player at one elementary school for a day while teachers had Special Education meetings, taught seventh grade Social Studies on Thursday, and served as a remedial reading teacher on my final day in action. When I have the chance, I enjoy getting into the classroom and facilitating some learning. It is quite rewarding, as you will read in the pieces on our two featured educators this week.

Also, as not the average college student, while at home I attended the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce mixer to meet some new folks. I would recommend taking opportunities such as this to make yourself more visible in the community (if that is your thing) and to network with your peers. Good relationships are essential to leading a fulfilling life.

This week we provide you with three interesting individuals. We bring you educators from our respective school districts; Beth Patton, Principal at Rush Henrietta High School, and Jason Andrews, Superintendent of the Windsor Central School District. Both are very devoted to their students, staff, and learning environments. As a bonus, the 3rd profile this week is Joe DeGeorge, Ben’s father. He is co-owner of St. Pauly Textiles, a unique used clothes company which provides developing countries with millions of pounds of clothing every year.

We hope you all enjoy this week’s efforts. Keep reading, giving us your feedback, and spreading the word!

Warm Regards,

Joseph Norman
SUNY Geneseo ‘08
Notable and Newsworthy

Jason A. Andrews

Jason A. Andrews:
Work Ethic with a Slice of Humor

By: Joseph W. Norman

Thomas Jefferson once stated, “I find that the harder I work the more luck I seem to have.” This is a personal favorite quote of Jason A. Andrews and it gives an idea of the life he has lived to this point. His character and work ethic can best be represented by his current position as the youngest Superintendent of Schools in New York State. Amazingly, he attained this position in the Windsor Central School District by thirty years of age. This is a sign of the caliber of character Jason brings to his professional and personal life, both of which are very important to him.

Growing up on a farm in Harpursville, NY, he learned the importance of hard work. This has served him well throughout his professional life. As the youngest of six siblings, he also learned a great deal of humility and developed a distinct sense of humor. He finds this last quality critical to success in life. “It’s about enjoying what you do,” he says. In his own life, he has consistently modeled that principle.

Jason’s history in the field of education begins with his election to the Harpursville School Board at the tail end of his senior year in high school. Eventually, he became vice president of the board and then president, a tenure that lasted from 1993-2001. He resigned before taking a job as Principal in the Harpursville Middle School, a school that he helped turn around and the one that gave him his first administrative opportunity.

In terms of Jason’s education, he attended the State University of New York at Cortland because of its proximity to home. He would commute from school to the school board meetings his entire college career. The whole time he went to Cortland, he managed a Friendly’s restaurant and was a sales rep for Huff Ice Cream. He gained much experience for the work he does now, primarily in respect to customer service and sales. These experiences helped pave the way for him because they taught him how to work well with people.

After graduating Jason applied to a couple of school districts, but was initially content with the living he was making working his various other jobs. One particular school’s interview has stuck with him since the day it happened. First, he literally had his Huff Ice Cream shirt and tie on with a suit coat over it, but this was not the most memorable part of this experience. Rather, it was something he learned about dealing with people by the actions of the principal, who later became a superintendent, that was conducting the interview.

Much of what the interviewers talked about was how fortunate Jason was to be interviewed because of the large pool of 178 applicants. The big issue was because he grew up on a dairy farm and if this might prevent him from being able to relate to the kids in this city school district. It was an unnecessary stigma about his background that limited the interviewers from seeing his potential. In fact, the principal that interviewed him was disengaged the whole time, often looking out the window. Jason was asked to come back for a final interview offered to only two other candidates, but he declined. This was a big risk because he was only twenty one years old, but he “knew that he would not be successful there.” He said, “I go back to that story often.” To him it is not only about interviewing, but it is about dealing with parents, staff, and people in general. “It is the whole idea of being present,” he declared. In his own dealings, he really focuses on giving his whole self to who he is interacting with.

One section of Jason's Office in Windsor, NY

Eventually, Jason landed a job as a part time Social Studies teacher in the Windsor Central School District but only after he was persuaded to apply for the position. He kept working all of his other jobs, however, and his days were generally long and arduous, but enjoyable. During the day he would teach and then make his Huff sales run to the Wilkes-Barre - Hazelton area in Pennsylvania. After this he would fax his sales slips into the Sidney office at a Kinko’s on his way to manage the night shift at Friendly’s in Vestal, New York. This reflects his work ethic which has brought him much success so far in his life.

After a brief tenure as Principal of Harpursville Middle School, he took a position as the Principal of Windsor’s Middle School. This was a school that needed some change and fortunately, was ready for it. It was “extremely challenging, but very rewarding,” Andrews said. He had to discipline faculty in an effort to bring up student test scores. The results were evident as the Middle School’s student body moved from the bottom three in the region to the top two in test scores. His success at this level helped land him his current position in the school district. Although he was apprehensive about applying for the Superintendent spot, he was again inspired by some of his associates and he was rewarded with a slice of Thomas Jefferson's “luck.” His hard work had indeed paid off.

As Superintendent, Jason handles a $29 million budget and manages 213 Instructional and 183 Non-Instructional Staff. He administers district policies and procedures, collaborates with the Board of Education and Staff to develop Strategic Planning, and maintains relations and communication with the school community. The job he has done since landing the position in January of 2006 has been tremendous in respect to the adversity he has had to deal with. In his first summer, much of the area he resides in was flooded terribly. As a result, his schools suffered millions of dollars in damage. He has successfully negotiated with FEMA and SEMO to get funding for many of these losses. Furthermore, he has been able to get other building plans designed and approved quickly to boost the efficiency and aesthetics of the four school buildings in the district.

While taking care of many of these behind the scenes things, he can often be found visiting the various schools he operates. In fact, he makes an effort to visit them all at least once a week. With the geographic size of the district, this is quite a task. Often times he can be found as a “mystery reader” in the Elementary Schools or just checking in with administration and instructional staff. His sense of humor and personality instills trust and has created a more enjoyable place to work.

This positive influence reflects his leadership style. He is constantly thinking positive and one of his favorite tools to use is “self-deprecating humor.” He claims, “First of all, it is funny, but it is also good to build report with people. It loosens people up and makes them more trusting.” All of this lies in Jason’s fundamental belief that you should not take yourself too seriously. Reflecting on his style and this belief he stated, “People who take themselves too seriously will still be laughed at, but it is not with them, it is after they leave.” He quipped, “I’d rather not take myself seriously and come up with the joke, ‘Thank you very much.’”

Jason's desk, certificates, and awards

Besides his sense of humor, Jason also considers his strengths to be his work ethic, his honesty, and his ability to articulate his vision. Honesty and integrity are qualities that were instilled in him by his grandfather through the life lessons he taught Jason. Andrews remarked, his grandfather would always say, “His name is the most valuable asset he has.” Therefore, he would always steer clear of doing things that may tarnish it. Jason’s honesty is sometimes “a little too blunt,” he claims, but it is important for him to deliberate whether people are helping achieve the vision or are in the way. He says that he puts it in a way that is very clear for them so they know where he stands.

Jason claims that one of his weaknesses is his impatience. “I am more of a too little, too late guy than a too much, too fast one,” he claims. In this industry it is a challenge because of the inherent bureaucracy and people’s resistance to change. He is working on being more tolerant of these two key impediments though. Meanwhile, a pet peeve of Jason's is the attitude the public often takes towards jobs in the public sector. He says, "It can be annoying when people come in with the attitude that I work for them, rather than stating how I can help them." Other things that bother Jason are laziness and negativity. Unfortunately, these are both things that can be found in about any workplace.

In terms of Jason’s personal life, family is extremely important to him. His grandparents influence was significant and his friendship with his parents has also been a constant. He has a lovely wife and one young son who he spends as much time with as possible. In fact, one of the most difficult things for him is the guilt he carries knowing that he may not see his son at all some days. “I am gone before he wakes up, and he is asleep before I get home,” he reflected. In the office at six in the morning and home sometimes after eight at night “wears on him” emotionally. He has managed well though and is thankful for all the things he has been blessed with. On this thought, when at home, he says, “I try to only be at home.” It reflects on the principle of being present which he puts much value in.

Now, it is important to discuss the little things that make Jason who he is. His favorite movie is "Shawshank Redemption," he loves watching the Yankees, and he enjoys playing basketball, although he is not “athletically gifted by any stretch.” When asked about his favorite food, he joked, “Apparently, I am not very choosy,” while he rubbed his belly. He compared himself to Garfield then and claimed to be a big fan of lasagna. In terms of his favorite candy bar he laughed, “Again, not choosy,” but he does enjoy a nice Baby Ruth. Eight hours of sleep are essential for him to function properly and he is trying to exercise more because of how sedentary his job can be. He has two dogs and one cat which are technically not his, “but I somehow end up taking care of them,” he quipped.

He is also involved in countless organizations across the state and nation including; the American Association of School Administrators, New York State Council of School Superintendents, Broome – Tioga Association for Chief School Officers, the Windsor Lion’s Club, 4-H club, and countless others. School leadership activities have interested him throughout his career as well, including recent roles on the Executive Board for the National Association of Student Councils and a previous tenure on the Executive Board of the New York State Council on Leadership and Student Activities. Both were rewarding experiences he claimed.

He reads a great deal but not too many books. “They overwhelm him,” he says. In his role, technical journals and current events are the essentials so his reading primarily revolves around these things. He is not a big leisure reader so instead he delves mostly in things that deal with his professional life. Currently, he is enjoying Michael Gurian’s, Wonder of Boys; a book about the learning style of boys and how the current educational system does not always provide them with what they need.

Overall, Jason Andrews is in love with what he does. “If you’re not laughing and having a good time, then don’t be there,” he claims. This positive attitude and fun loving style has made Jason easy to work with and follow. His work ethic is one of an old farm boy with good values instilled by a loving, hard working family. This self proclaimed, “Handsome or svelte” man, is not only hilarious and fun to be around and work with, but a model of Thomas Jefferson’s quote in action. It seems that no matter what Jason decides to do with his future, he will find success because he will enjoy it and work hard at it. Right now, that is successfully managing the Windsor Central School District and making it a better place for students to grow and learn.

Joseph and Jason

Jason A. Andrews
Windsor Central School District
Superintendent of Schools
215 Main Street
Windsor, NY 13865
Phone: 607-655-8216

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