June 19, 2008
Barry principal going to be missed
Fred Amante will end 23-year career at school as he retires June 30
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Barry Elementary sixth-graders rush to the school playground for recess past Principal Fred Amante Tuesday. Amante is retiring after 23 years as principal at the school.
For 23 years, Principal Fred Amante has called Franklyn S. Barry Elementary School home.
As retirement on June 30 nears, Amante, who lives within the neighborhood of his school, reflected on his career and accomplishments Tuesday during an interview.
“I feel really good about creating a positive environment for kids and adults at school,” Amante said, putting this first among his accomplishments. He said children come to school with positive energy, optimism and with lots of potential. “We want to keep growing that.”
That positive atmosphere shows in the many ways the school community has appreciation for Amante, who has been involved in hiring just about everyone at the school.
Amante pulled out a painting of himself that the staff and Parent Teacher Association had presented to him that will be hung at the school.
“I don’t get to keep it,” he said of the caricature that made his head prominent on a short body. The painting showed a big smile on his face.
Just one year after coming to Cortland in 1986, Amante hired Theresa Quail, a third-grade teacher.
“The one characteristic that stands out is his vision of making Barry School a community,” said Quail. “He always found a way to connect with the rest of Cortland,” she added, noting programs with the 1890 House and SUNY Cortland.
“My work to establish a relationship with the college has been very helpful to a lot of individuals,” Amante said. Future teachers, Barry students and teachers all benefit from the many activities and programs the college collaborates on with the school.
Quail said all the teachers have devoted their bulletin boards to Amante with teachers and their students coming up with tributes to him on the board, such as his hobbies of carpentry or gardening and one shows Amante with his new casual clothes and a suit and tie discarded.
Michael Thomas, a sixth-grader, said every day after saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Amante says, “Have a nice day boys and girls.” He said the principal peeks into classrooms every day and sometimes sits in classrooms.
Quinn Kennedy, a fifth-grader who transferred to the school in first grade from St. Mary’s School in Cortland, said Amante always says hello or another greeting to students in the hallway.
“Last week on Wednesday he was in the dunk tank and got dunked,” Quinn said, adding he missed when he threw balls to try to dunk Amante.
Quail said that was Field Day and the staff gave Amante a T-shirt with “Dared 2 Be Dunked” printed on the front of it. She said he was dunked a couple of dozen times.
Quail said other fun things Amante has done are roller blade in the halls as Santa and during the harvest festival he has driven the hay wagon from the Cortland Waterworks around.
She said teachers also played on his worst fear — a teacher going into labor — during a faculty meeting April 1. Quail said a pregnant teacher spilled water, said her water broke, and expected him to panic, but instead he calmly asked the nurse to get a wheelchair.
“I’m going to miss him,” said Bonnie Calzolaio, director of the Cortland County Teacher Center. “He is the most cooperative, easygoing, fair administrator I’ve ever met.”
She said the center had been at St. Mary’s School and needed a new home 14 years ago. She sent letters to principals and administrators, and Amante came over to St. Mary’s to talk and invited her to move to Barry.
“I can walk in his office anytime and just chat,” she said.
Amante came to Cortland from Olean in Western New York, where he taught elementary school, mostly in fifth grade, but also taught fourth and sixth grades. Then he became coordinator of the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES science program. Altogether he has spent 39 years in the education field, he said.
A native of Long Island, he had graduated from St. Bonaventure University, also in Olean, with a bachelor’s in elementary education. He got his master’s from Adelphi University and received his administrative certification from St. Bonaventure.
Amante said retirement was a hard decision to make, but decided it was time for someone younger than his 60 years.
“I think the new principal will find a very cohesive team of teachers,” Amante said of Lydia Rosero, who replaces him. Her appointment was approved by the Board of Education May 27.
“There’s a lot of other things I want to do,” Amante said, naming home remodeling and building projects, landscaping and boating.
He has a sailboat and a motorboat and Cayuga Lake is his usual destination. “That’s my leisure time,” he said of the boating hobby. Amante also said he wants to read, relax and exercise more. “All the things you’d like to do but you just don’t have time — you make excuses.”
Seeing grandchildren more is also in his future. He has two in Endwell, in Broome County, and one, soon to be two, in New Hartford, near Utica.
Amante lives on Bennie Road with his wife, Sue, a teacher assistant at Smith Elementary School. He said she would continue to work. They have five children — three daughters and two sons.
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