Lutsic will leave GHS along with the seniors

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Readying to retire: Thomas Lutsic, principal of Guilderland High School, will retire on June 30, a week after this year’s graduation ceremony.

GUILDERLAND — As he prepares to leave his post as principal of Guilderland High School, Thomas Lutsic looks back over his seven years and says he is proudest of getting through “some difficult financial times in education.”

Despite those difficulties, he says, the suburban school with about 1,700 students has managed to increase its college-level offerings “significantly” and has started new classes in the sciences and humanities, many with a more practical orientation, such as physical therapy and nursing in the sciences, and social injustice and criminal justice classes in the humanities.

Any regrets? “We would always like to have lower class sizes,” Lutsic said. He added, “And we would always like to do more professional development.”

Lutsic didn’t much like his own high school experience. He felt disconnected from school, and didn’t have anyone to step forward to show him why education was important.

When Lutsic was a young child — “probably about 3,” he said last week — his parents split up and he and his brother were given over to the care of other relatives: His brother went to an aunt and uncle, and he went to his grandparents.

“They were my parents,” he said, referring to his grandparents.

Later, when he was about 15, he entered foster care after his grandfather died and his grandmother, who was also caring for Lutsic’s great-grandfather, became overwhelmed.

His foster parents were very nice people, he said, and he stayed in touch with them through most of his life, although he has fallen more out of touch in recent years.

This upbringing was all he knew, and seemed fairly normal to him at the time, he said.

But looking back now, he thinks maybe his upbringing had something to do with his sense of disconnectedness in high school. “I never really had that person who stepped forward,” he said.

Lutsic also started working at a young age, he said — “everything from shining shoes at a country club to laying blacktop.”

He attributes his desire to go into education to those youthful life experiences.

Two types of people go into education, he said: those who loved their own school experience and those who didn’t; he hoped, like others in the latter group, to make the experience better for students.

As principal, his role involves less face-to-face time with students than he would like, he said, and contributions he can make tend to be less one-on-one and more in terms of training and oversight — for instance, he said, asking assistant principals to focus on turning discipline matters into learning experiences and also, as much as possible, keeping kids in school rather than suspending them.

Guilderland High School has a “great counseling staff,” Lutsic said, and has added social workers. Next year, he said, the district is thinking of adding a mental-health clinic, through Parsons Child and Family Center in partnership with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

He noted that students struggling with depression and anxiety seem to be more prevalent these days than when he was in school — due partly to increased numbers of kids suffering with these conditions and partly because in the past students were bused elsewhere for services that are now provided at school.

Lutsic served, previously, as a principal for grades six through 12 in Hamilton, in central New York; and as an assistant principal in East Irondequoit, which was large like Guilderland, he said, but with more of an urban population. Before that, he taught English and creative writing in Geneva.

What others say

Ann-Marie McManus, an assistant principal at the high school, said this week that Lutsic “is always there, but not a micromanager.”

He supports her as an administrator and lets her be herself, she said, adding, “He supports me with our conversations and our honesty.”

Lutsic has a strong work ethic, she said. His car is always the first in the parking lot. He carries to-do lists with him on Post-It notes.

Lutsic “lets you do what you do as an administrator, but he also holds you accountable, in a supportive and caring way,” McManus said.

Matthew Ward, another assistant principal, wrote of Lutsic in an email, “He carries himself daily with the utmost professionalism, always looking for ways to help students.” He added, “His wry sense of humor, knowledge of the building, and level-headed approach to situations will be missed.”

Marie Wiles, the district’s superintendent, wrote in an email about Lutsic, “He can be depended upon in any situation to remain calm and collected. He is thoughtful and thorough in all of this work. He is also very humble.

“He never takes credit for any of the wonderful things that happen at GHS; for him, it is always the students or the faculty or the support staff or his administrative team who have done something worthy of celebration. Yet, in the alternative, if something does not go well, he always takes responsibility and never tries to blame others. I truly admire individuals who have the strength of character to lead in that way.”

Wiles added that the district is currently conducting a search and had 46 applicants when the posting closed on March 2.  

A committee has conducted the first round of interviews, Wiles said, and invited a small number of applicants to return for a second round on March 20.  

“We are hopeful to have an appointment of the successful candidate on April 17,” Wiles said.

What is next

Lutsic’s wife teaches English at Oneonta High School, and Lutsic has already written to both colleges there — the State University of New York at Oneonta and Hartwick College — to let them know about his availability for tasks including supervising student teachers or working as an adjunct, he said.

He and his wife have three grown children, none of whom — “sadly,” he says — have followed their parents’ footsteps into education.

In retirement, Lutsic hopes to be able to devote more time to volunteer work. In the past, he has been very involved in Rotary International, he said, which not only offers foreign-exchange programs but also does fundraising for causes such as its Dollars for Scholars program, distributing scholarship funds and helping with college readiness and the financial-aid application process.

He’ll be graduating with the class of 2018, Lutsic said. He quickly added, “But it’s not about me. It’s about the kids.”

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