OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Carl Palmitesso served the Oswego City School District students and community in many ways.
The Oswego Middle School’s mini theater was dedicated in his memory Nov. 19.
During his decades in education, Palmitesso taught earth science and driver’s education at Oswego High School.
He served as a vice principal at OHS, also.
When the Oswego Middle School opened, he was named its first principal.
He retired in 1986 but didn’t walk away from education or the district and its students.
He was elected to three terms on the board of education, serving from 1987 to 1996.
Mr. Palm, as he was known, was the board president from 1988-89 and 1995-96.
Bob Stone, former Minetto Elementary School Principal and school board member, was one of Mr. Palm’s contemporaries.
“We weren’t really good friends in high school, but we knew each other; I knew his wife better, because she was in some of my classes. We sort of split up after high school,” he said.
Stone joined the Navy, Palmitesso went into the Army.
“After (World War II), we were college colleagues together. Kind of funny how we both wound up in education and later becoming principals and school board members,” Stone noted. “He was a good man.”
“He was the first male teacher I ever had, because I spent all my elementary years at St. Mary’s,” Bill Foley, the night’s MC, pointed out.
When he went to OHS in ninth grade, Palmitesso was one of the first teachers Foley encountered.
“He gave me a great welcome to earth science Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and even passed me. He was also the (school) board president when I was hired,” the district clerk continued.
Palmitesso loved music. To recognize that facet of his life, there were performances by some of the Oswego Middle School’s eighth grade trumpet players, a presentation by several strings musicians and a violin trio performing “Canon in D.”
Foley joked that he had tried to contact Superintendent Bill Crist, a former OHS musician, and invite him to perform along side the students.
“I couldn’t get a hold of you,” Foley said.
“How unfortunate,” the superintendent laughed.
Ginny Fragale, Palmitesso’s daughter, spoke on behalf of the family.
“My family and I are grateful for everyone who was able to attend this evening’s dedication,” she told the full house in the mini theater. “If he were here, he’d express how honored and humbled he was in having this room at the Oswego Middle School named in his honor.”
Being an educator wasn’t just a career, it was his vocation, she pointed out.
“He truly enjoyed going to work every day and dreamed of making a difference in the education for children in the Oswego City School District,” she said. “The students, faculty and staff at OMS were an extended family for him.”
He was devoted to all the children of the Oswego community, she said.
Even after retiring, he continued to be a part of the school community, serving on the board of education, and then on the Oswego County BOCES board from 1996 to 1999, she added.
As he got up to speak, Ed Matott, a friend and colleague of Palmitesso’s who initiated the recognition, looked at the crowd and quipped, “I am having flashbacks of the faculty room … I’m sitting here and there are all these faculty members all around.”
He recalled how his good friend and good educational leader had asked him to go to Albany with him for a meeting with the State Education Department regarding the construction for the current middle school.
He said he felt pretty good to have been asked to drive to Albany with Palmitesso.
Several other representatives from Oswego had flown a small plane and would meet them there.
“I didn’t know until later, Carl would never put his foot in a small plane! He would never fly in a small plane,” Matott said. “The superintendent had arranged the flight. Carl, by getting one more person to go, me, didn’t have to fly. Basically, I was his excuse to not fly.”
Palmitesso would fight for the students and teachers, “he would fight for what he needed to have a good educational program for kids in his school,” his friend said.
Looking over the proposal for the school, a state SED official said there were two home and career stations Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Carl said, no, we have three,” Matott recalled.
According to the state, OMS was entitled to two.
“Carl said he had three teachers, a program and we need three rooms,” Matott said. “And the guy said we were only entitled to two. Carl said, ‘Let me explain this program to you.'”
Bottomline: there are three classrooms at OMS for home and career teachers.
“He believed in shared decision making before it was a popular theme. Carl’s the kind of person who would listen to a teacher, a custodian, a secretary, anyone in the building and take what they had to say to heart,” Matott said. “He didn’t make decisions for you. He worked with you.”
Thanks to Palmitesso, many people’s ideas and visions are incorporated into the current OMS today, he added.
“Carl Palmitesso was an ultimate politician Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he could get it done,” Matott said.
Crist agreed with Matott’s observation. “It is like having a faculty meeting here. It is great to see so many new and old faces, some people who have really been the glue to hold this building together and fulfill Carl’s legacy,” the superintendent said.
It was a fitting tribute to name the OMS mini theater in Mr. Palm’s memory, he said.
He committed his life to education, he added.
“Carl’s heart, I believe, was always here at the middle level of education, here at our middle school,” Crist said.
Crist, a product of the Oswego City School District, interacted with Palmitesso on many levels.
He was a student at the old middle school and Palmitesso was his principal.
“He was very supportive of me and continued to be supportive as I moved on to be a teacher and Carl hired me to come here to the middle school to work as a music teacher for many years,” Crist said. “I also had the opportunity to work with Carl as a department chair while he served on the board of education.”
“As I stand here, I stand here really as a testament to so many other students who came before me who Carl touched in so many different ways to be a better person, a better contributor to this community and this society,” Crist continued. “Carl was always direct, usually hard-nosed with strong convictions; but also caring and very supportive.”
Crist also recounted Mr. Palm’s affection for giving people nicknames. Some of the monikers he bestowed on Crist include: “Young Man,” “Billy the C” and one of his favorites Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Young Buck.”
“It’s an honor for me to be here tonight to dedicate this room to my friend and fellow board member, Carl,” said current school board president Sam Tripp.
He knew Carl all of his life. He really got to know him when he and Carl along with Don Goewey were elected to the board in 1987, he noted.
“Carl was a great educator, but number one, Carl was a family man,” Tripp said. “His family came ahead of everything else. I always respected him for that. He was also a very loyal person. If you were his friend and he believed in you and what you were doing, he’d back you to the hilt. I always enjoyed working with Carl as a board member.”
Tripp remembered his friend’s penchant for sweets.
When Palmitesso was board president there was a budget crunch and the district looked for ways to tighten its belt, Tripp said.
Every board meeting, a cheesecake was made at the middle school kitchen and sent over to the board room.
“Our meetings were fairly early in those days and we didn’t get to eat,” Tripp noted. “And, Carl was always the first one at the cheesecake.”
When the superintendent at the time asked for cost-savings ideas, Tripp said, “Without even thinking, I popped up and said we can cut out the cheesecake.”
“Well, I looked at Carl and you would have thought I’d run over his puppy,” Tripp said as the audience shared a hearty laugh. “That did not fly. We continued to have cheesecake.”
Foley said the company who made the plaque sent the wrong one earlier in the week. The correct one arrived at 3 p.m. the day of the ceremony.
“I’d like to thank buildings and grounds for being here at quarter to four and putting the plaque up,” he said.