March 21, 2008


St. Mary’s School principal to retire after 22-year tenure

Sster Harriet Hamilton

Bob Ellis/staff photographer   
Sister Harriet Hamilton will retire as principal at St. Mary’s School at the end of the school year.

Staff Reporter

Sister Harriet Hamilton, longtime principal of Saint Mary’s School, plans to retire after the end of the school year.
Hamilton, who has spent 22 years as principal of Saint Mary’s School, sent a letter to school parents at the end of last week detailing her intention to retire July 1, after a total of 52 years in education.
“I expect to remain in Cortland and work in parish ministry at St. Mary’s Parish,” Hamilton wrote in the letter.
“She’s sincerely going to be missed,” said Michael Colabufo, superintendent of Syracuse Diocese schools.
Colabufo said Hamilton was one of the first Catholic school principals he came to know well after taking the superintendent’s position two years ago.
“She’s a very vigilant worker,” he said, noting she teaches by example. “She follows the example of Saint Francis — she preaches all the time, and occasionally, she uses words.”
Monsignor Michael Minehan, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, said the Syracuse Diocese plans to begin making inquiries into possible replacements for Hamilton in the near future.
Colabufo said job postings will be run in newspapers throughout Onondaga, Cortland and Broome counties, and that candidates will also be sought nationally through the National Catholic Educators Association Web site.
However, he said, the diocese also plans to notify Catholic religious orders throughout the United States.
Finding a candidate in Hamilton’s religious order, the Order of Saint Francis, would be the “best of all possible solutions,” Minehan said.
St. Mary’s parish and the Syracuse Diocese plan to work together to find a suitable replacement for Hamilton, who Colabufo said has had a remarkable impact on St. Mary’s School over the course of her tenure there.
“She took the school from 143 pupils, according to my records, to a high of 372,” he said. Hamilton is responsible for bringing the pre-kindergarten and before- and after-school programs to St. Mary’s.
Hamilton has received several awards over the course of her career as an educator, including the 1997 Distinguished Principal award from the National Catholic Educators Association. She was one of 12 principals nationally who received the award, Colabufo said.
“The quality of the education at the school (Saint Mary’s) is a direct reflection of the quality of her as a leader of the school,” Minehan said.
Hamilton was unavailable for immediate comment.