McGraw Central School District attracts impressive number of homegrown leaders
On Friday, June 23, 44 seniors at McGraw Central School District (MCSD) will earn their diplomas during a graduation ceremony held on the front lawn of the high school.
“Graduation has always been there,” said MCSD Cafeteria Manager Greg Bilodeau. “It’s tradition.” Bilodeau is a Class of 1974 McGraw Eagle, and one of five McGraw alumni in leadership positions at the school district.
“It’s a unique situation,” said MCSD Superintendent Melinda McCool. “Having five of eight administrative roles filled by McGraw alumni shows we are invested in our community. We all have a common goal: To make the community a better place. We want to make a difference for our future generations, and we are able to do so by coming to work every day.”
Superintendent McCool was valedictorian of the Class of 1984.
The 2016-2017 school year was McCool’s first as superintendent for the district of 550 students. Before coming home to McGraw, she taught in the Homer Central School District for 14 years, and then served as an elementary school principal in the Hunter Tannersville Central School for 10 years.
“It was a dream come true to come home,” said McCool. “My family is here. My roots are here. I’m thrilled to be back.”
McCool says her first year at the helm of her alma mater has gone very well, thanks in part to her leadership team.
“I’ve experienced incredible support -- it already feels like we’re family. Everything has felt so natural to be here.”
Leading with heart
High School Principal Mark Dimorier has been with the district for nearly 20 years. A proud member of the Class of 1989, Dimorier believes, “Home is where the heart is.” Serving as the principal for the past 14 years, Dimorier offers all new employees, especially those who are not McGraw alumni, the same advice: “Be careful. This place will draw you in and you’ll never leave.”
And it seems to be true. MCSD faculty and staff rarely leave the district, with the exception of retirement.
“When people come, they stay,” said Dimorier.
Superintendent McCool agrees.
“The No. 1 reason our district is so fantastic is our students. Additionally, the leadership we provide and the relationships we have with our students’ family members are both critical to our success. When a situation arises, Mark deals with it immediately, and has the parents’ support.”
When a controversial situation took place during the 2016-2017 school year, a parent commented on social media, “I trust whatever Mark and Melinda do.” McCool says that was the best compliment she could have received because it showcased the strong relationships and level of trust she and her team have with their families.
“To have the respect and trust of our parents and community is powerful,” said McCool. “It’s because they know us. They knew us when we attended school, and they know our family.”
“The relationships make my job so much easier,” said Dimorier. “Parents and guardians respect my decisions and know I’m acting in the best interest of their kids, and they know I care. That’s everything.”
Faculty and staff at MCSD do care. They want to help students strive to succeed and grow.
“McGraw is a small, tight-knit community,” said Tom McCall, facilities and transportation director, and valedictorian of the Class of 1996. “I know 500 of the 550 students in our district by name. When I’m driving bus, I call them by their name and ask them how they’re doing, or congratulate them on a recent success. This makes a difference and the students feel validated.”
Come home to McGraw
Tucked away in the southeast corner of the picturesque Finger Lakes region, McGraw offers residents a private, country-infused lifestyle, with city amenities nearby. Located in the center of New York just off Route 81, McGraw is approximately 45 miles from Binghamton and Syracuse, and 28 miles from Ithaca.
“McGraw is a gorgeous community just outside of the Seven Valleys of Cortland,” said McCool. “Our tax dollars are well spent to ensure our infrastructure, such as our waterways and bridges, remain well cared for. This is a great place for a new family to start their next chapter. We have plenty of land available for building and growth. The future is unwritten for the McGraw community.”
Despite a deeply-rooted community, McCool believes it’s a very welcoming place to relocate.
“You’ll never feel like an outsider,” said McCool. “It’s a wonderful place to be, and to grow, and to learn.”
Small district, big opportunities
“We want our students to have access to the best opportunities possible,” said McCool.
She’s working with her team to create pathways to ensure students are successful.
“I want to improve our technology offerings at McGraw in order to bring our students and curriculum into the 21st century.”
Beginning in September, kindergarteners will be keyboarding, and technology internships will be developed for high schoolers.
The district is also creating an electric piano lab to help enhance the elementary school’s music program. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will experience instruction on pianos during a portion of every music class.
Additionally, the 2017-2018 school year will launch the district’s first Pre-K program.
“We have a job to do: To serve the kids and our community -- and we do whatever it takes to accomplish this,” said Troy Bilodeau, business administrator and member of the Class of 1997.
Five-hundred chairs will soon be set up in front of the high school. At least half of the community is expected to attend the graduation ceremony. It’s tradition.