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Crist Ready To Take On Responsibility Of Superintendent

OSWEGO, NY – “See you around.”

Thirty-two years ago, a young William Crist probably didn’t realize just how prophetic those three little words accompanying his OHS senior portrait were.

Bill Crist
Bill Crist

Looking back today, the new Oswego Superintendent of Schools views those words differently.

Crist, 50, accepted the school board’s offer to take over the position of superintendent.

His salary will jump from about $104,000 to approximately $142,000.

He was named acting superintendent in July.

He is expected to be approved by the board of education at its December meeting.

One of the new superintendent’s tasks will be to research the possibility of selling the Education Center on East First Street.

“I’ve asked Mr. Crist to look into appraising this building; see what it would be worth on the open market,” said board president Dave White.

White also would like to know what current district building would be the easiest and cheapest to house the district offices.

In May 2005, Jim Wasley of Christa Construction recommended the district keep the education center.

At the time, Christa had been on site for about two years working on the district’s capital improvement project.

As a possible cost-savings measure, the district was considering selling the building and had requested Wasley provide them with some options.

The Education Center was constructed in 1978, and purchased by the district in 1992 for $1,875,000.

The market value, based on a certified appraisal dated Feb. 11, 2002, was $1,800,000, Wasley said.

The building has an existing floor area of 30,096 square feet.

At the time of Wasley’s report it cost $181,270 annually to operate. Utilities ($102,768) were the majority of the operating costs.

The issue will likely come up for discussion at the Dec. 9 meeting, he said.

“We need to be more cost effective in the way we do business and more efficient in our operations,” Crist agreed.

Crist’s tenure with the district began nearly three decades ago.

He graduated from Oswego High School in 1976 and went to Ithaca College as a music major.

He has worked in the Oswego district for 26 years; he moved from music teacher to Oswego Middle School assistant principal to director of personnel and finally assistant superintendent for personnel and human resources.

He said he is “excited” and “humbled” by the challenges – and opportunities – of his new position.

“It’s a position that you don’t take on without great consideration and great reflection,” Crist said. “And quiet honestly, I think, with a significant level of experience in the profession before you jump into that arena.”

“We have had a long talk with Mr. Crist. We had some differences, in wording, but we resolved that,” White said of the contract talks between Crist and the school board.

A small reception is planned for after the Dec. 9 meeting, he added.

“I feel Bill will do a good job. He came up through the system,” White said.

Crist said he’s humbled by the opportunity to “serve my community after having spent really my professional career here, graduating from high school here. It’s an opportunity that really doesn’t fall upon many people in education, to become the superintendent in the community that you graduated from.”

It’s something he’s aspired to, he admitted, adding, the task of the superintendent is not an easy one.

“It’ a difficult role to play and it’s a huge level of responsibility that I feel to represent this community and school district,” he said. “I know I have the support of the board and many people in the community that have the confidence in me to do the job. And with that, I also have the confidence to know that I can work with people on the board and other key people in the community to affect some positive change in this school district.”

The district is under some scrutiny from the state in terms of the middle and high schools, “There’s some change that needs to happen, some correction that needs to take place,” he pointed out.

“But, you know, I’m very proud of what happens on a day to day basis with our schools and our students, the accomplishments that they are able to achieve and show that good things are happening in our schools and within our community. I think it’s incumbent on me and the board to continue to move in a positive direction.”

Having such deep roots in the community, and district, will help him head off issues before they become problems, Crist said.

“I’m familiar with the district. I’ve taught at all levels. I have had the opportunity to serve as a building administrator. So I think I have some understanding of what that job entails as well,” he said. “I’m known in the community and I know people in the community in the sense of community leaders. I played basketball with the mayor last night (against the Harlem Wizards). It was great. I scored four points. We had a great time.”

Having worked with many community leaders in his positions with the Rotary Club, chamber of commerce and United Way will “help to connect the school district with the community,” he added.

He has worked closely with the past three superintendents; and seven or eight over the course of his employment in the district.

He said he hopes to have a long career as superintendent, which with bring some consistency and stability to the district.

“That’s something this community needs. I would allow for some positive and lasting change to take place,” he said. “That is the way we can impact a quality educational program, by having stable and consistent leadership that includes the board of education working with the superintendent. That’s how we’re really going to be able to get things accomplished here.”

Don’t expect change overnight; some of the things that need to be done will be part of a three- to five-year plan, he pointed out.

“We’re still a district that is losing enrollment. One of the hottest things that we’re looking at is ho we’re going to get through the next 18 months to 24 months financially, given the condition of the state,” Crist said. “Those are some of the front issues that we need to address.

Crist said his philosophy of having an open door policy will continue in his new position.

“I hope I have a long career here,” Crist said. “I am at a point in my career where in five or six years I could be eligible to retire. But, quite honestly, I’d like to think that it’s more of a seven or 10 year plan.”