Schmitz’s 6-year tenure at Clayton A. Bouton: ‘A legacy of love’

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Clayton A. Bouton Principal Laura Schmitz is pictured handing Voorheesville volleyball captains the Regional Championship plaque in 2017.

NEW SCOTLAND — Six years after her arrival at Voorheesville, Laura Schmitz, principal of Clayton A. Bouton High School, has fulfilled the mission of the board and superintendent who hired her — bringing more innovative programs to the school.

She will be stepping down in mid-April for health reasons but remains ever-optimistic about, well, really everything, especially her time in the district. 

“I’d like to think that I leave a legacy of love,” Schmitz said. “I loved my vocation; it wasn’t work, it was a calling — I was dedicated and devoted to our students, to our staff … [and had] compassion and concern for every member of the community.”

Schmitz, whose last day will be April 16, was the center of publicity and controversy in spring 2015, when supportive students and families clashed with the Ballston Spa School Board that denied Schmitz tenure as an assistant high school principal in a district overseen by a superintendent who himself was a former Voorheesville assistant principal. In August 2019, Schmitz was unanimously approved for tenure in Voorheesville.

The Voorheesville superintendent at the time Schmitz was hired, Brian Hunt, said then, “We’re interested in bringing as many innovative programs to our district as we can. We’re definitely pleased that she has that strong academic background.”

Schmitz earned her bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College and her master’s degree from Brown University in teaching English and Spanish. She earned her administration credentials at the State University of New York College at New Paltz.

 The current superintendent Frank Macri, who replaced Hunt, said this week, “Mrs. Schmitz, honestly, is dedicated to the students, always putting them first and foremost, and her dedication will be missed.”

Bryan Wood, who filled in for Schmitz while she was on medical leave for the first three months of this school year, will return as interim principal, Macri said, adding the district hopes to have a permanent replacement in place by July.


A legacy of excellence

Schmitz was able to take the reins of a thoroughbred and not break stride. 

Last year, Clayton A. Bouton High School was recognized by the United States Department of Education as an Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School for 2020.

The Blue Ribbon acknowledgement was a celebration of the whole Voorheesville community, not a celebration of her application-writing abilities, Schmitz quipped. 

Voorheesville’s high school was one of only 18 schools from New York State to be recognized last year; nationally, 367 schools were honored. 

Exemplary High Performing schools, according to the United States Department of Education, “Have their state’s highest high school graduation rates and the highest achieving students (the top 15 percent) in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments.”

There are approximately 27,000 public and private high schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In total, in New York State, there are about 1,9oo public and private high schools — a number which includes kindergarten through 12th-grade schools; junior and senior high schools; and stand-alone high schools — according to the state Education Department

Since its 1982 inception, 534 schools in New York State have been named Blue Ribbon Schools; nationally, 10,000 awards have gone to more than 9,000 schools. Just 48 of those New York schools have been repeat winners — Voorheesville has two repeat winners: Clayton A. Bouton in 2020 and in 1991, and Voorheesville Elementary in 1992 and in 2014.

Schmitz said she was also proud of enhancing curricular options and increasing opportunities for students in her time in Voorheesville.

Project Lead The Way now offers three engineering and technology courses; Voorheesville added an Advanced Placement — college level — English offering where it once only had AP literature; an anatomy and physiology course has been added; and meteorology, which is offered through the University at Albany, has been expanded from a half-year class to a full-year course, she said.

There have been clubs added as well: Amnesty International; a robotics club; a health-and-fitness club; the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) was changed to the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA); and a new club addressing current events around globe may start this fall, Schmitz said.

“I hope that the students and families remember that I exuded support,” she said, whether that be attending art shows, musical theater performances, athletic events, or supporting students in the Model United Nations Club who were in competition at Brown University, in Rhode Island. “You know, it was across the board, I wanted to have the students feel the support of their passions.”


A family legacy

Asked about her difficulties over the past six years, Schmitz said, “The one I’m experiencing now.”

“I’ll be perfectly honest with you, it’s not like I’m dying,” Schmitz said. “I don’t have a terminal disease. It’s uncontrolled high blood pressure — I just can't get it down.”

Schmitz said, “That’s my greatest hurdle. For the last year, I have battled it and thought that I could make it a case of mind over matter, but I can’t will high blood pressure away. I can’t do it.”

She has a long family history — four generations of women in her family have died without warning of heart attacks. “It’s just a massive, deadly coronary,” Schmitz said. 

 She is the fifth generation with high blood pressure. 

With her new-found time, Schmitz said that her plan is to focus and prioritize her health. 

And she has her family.

Her husband, Stefan, and she were co-valedictorians at Canandaigua Academy.

As of Friday, her daughter will be Dr. Stefani Schmitz, a resident in emergency medicine at the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital.

Schmitz said her son, Robby, graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University and is currently in his second year of law school, and plans on being an intellectual property and patent attorney.


A lasting legacy

Schmitz said there’s a lot she wouldn’t have achieved had it not been for her “administrative partner,” Joseph Sapienza, who, in addition to being Voorheesville’s athletic director, is dean of students, Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) coordinator, and, most recently, COVID coordinator. “For the last six years. Joe Sapienza not only welcomed me warmly, but he could not have collaborated more meaningfully … He was my administrator partner and true voice Voorheesville Renaissance man.”

Scmitz said, “I want to give credit to the man who was not only born and raised in Voorheesville but who continues to bleed purple and gold.”

As for if she’ll ever return to the profession, Schmitz said, “I don’t close doors, let’s put it that way. I remain open to all possibilities.”

Asked if she had anything to add, she said, “You’ve heard it every year for six years: It is my honor and great joy to have served in this role, and I hope I leave a legacy of love.”

Schmitz then referenced one of her favorite poems, “On Work,” by Kahlil Gibran: “And what is it to work with love? …  It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.”

And concluded, “Hopefully, I charged all things with a breath of my spirit.”

More New Scotland News

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