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June 15, 2013

 

Educator bids farewell

Longtime Cortland principal ending 40-year career

NewBob Ellis/staff photographer
Barry Elementary School Principal Lynn New is retiring at the end of the school year after more than 40 years in the Cortland Enlarged City School District. She is shown standing in the school lobby in front of a photo display of her career.

By SCOTT CONROE
Contributing Writer

Lynn New has used a few mantras over 41 years as a teacher and principal in the Cortland Enlarged City School District.
Students who were sent to her principal’s office as punishment always heard, “Do you like the result of what you did? No? The power is in you, to make good choices.”
The teachers she supervised from 1980-81 to 2010-11 at Virgil Elementary School, and during three years at Barry Elementary School, heard: “What we do is for the children.”
Another one: “All kids are good kids.” Family background does not matter.
For the 2010-11 school year, when New was principal at both schools, her mantra for Barry School was “Back on track.” The school improved dramatically in the past three years.
New will retire on July 1.
Her husband, David, retired recently as an engineer at United Technologies in Syracuse.
Other changes are coming. Their son Jeffrey, a computer security systems designer for Veritas in Rochester, and his wife are expecting their first grandchild in December. Their daughter Jennifer, a nurse in Rochester, is getting married on June 22.
“What I think about is, I really feel as if I made an impact on the tone and community of the buildings where I was principal,” New said Wednesday. On her desk lay a bound booklet of messages from staff and students at Barry School. Nearby lay another booklet of tributes from Virgil School students.
New started as a reading teacher at Randall Elementary School in 1972-73, after graduating with a secondary English degree from SUNY Potsdam and obtaining a master’s degree in reading education from the University at Albany.
She grew up as Lynn Aslanian in Massena, oldest of three children of a factory worker of Armenian descent and a mother of French-Canadian descent, whose family had been in Montreal since 1638. Aslanian means “Daughter of the Lion.”
She finished undergraduate studies in three years, then got her master’s degree while doing an internship in the reading department at Albany.
“That was the ticket, so to speak: reading,” she said. “David was hired at Pall Trinity Micro and I was hired by Carl Savino (elementary supervisor) as a teacher. I worked with Joe Cincotta, the principal, and learned a lot from him.”
Cincotta used food and fun to make his staff feel appreciated, she said, and she has tried to follow his example.
New obtained an administrator’s certificate from SUNY Cortland and did her internship at Barry School. In the fall of 1980, she became head teacher at Virgil — the job title at the time, later changed to principal.
The Virgil community was still struggling with its school district’s merger with Cortland’s, 15 years earlier. New said she tried to bring stability, starting with the schedule of the school year, which she used to learn about the students.
“Lynn ran a tight ship, but kids and everybody really loved and respected her,” said Alane VanDonsel, president of the city Board of Education, whose children attended Virgil School. “She always knew the children’s names. She came to the sixth grade graduation party last weekend, and knew all of them.”
Former Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring asked New to take over Barry School as well for 2010-11, to change the school’s culture. She said she began by making a plan and schedule for every teacher and staff member, something they had not had.
“Larry thought Barry School was a building in crisis, and asked if I could run both,” she said. “I thought I could if he took something off my plate. I did the test scoring and planning for English language arts for all five elementary schools — every principal has some piece of the curriculum. Larry took that from me.”
New held the weekly morning faculty meeting at each school and worked hard to be present at both schools, which are six miles apart. She wanted all staff to feel valued and for Virgil students to feel she still cared.
Three years later, Barry School students’ performance on state tests ranks among the district’s best.
The past week has included an ice cream social at Barry School, with New as special guest, and more celebrations are planned. New said she is not sure what she will do in retirement, but agrees that maybe she could be a consultant on how to change a school’sperformance.
“You have to make everyone feel valued,” she said. “Custodians, administrative assistants — everyone.”

 

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