New Voorheesville school board president looks to continue district’s success

— Photo from Greenberg Traurig website

Doreen Saia

VOORHEESVILLE  — The Voorheesville Central School Board will have a new president this year following the retirement of Cheryl Dozier. Doreen Saia, who was appointed to the board in November of 2014 to serve out a partial term and elected to a four-year term in May of that year, was unanimously chosen as the board’s new president. She had previously served as its vice president. 

Saia is an attorney and shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP in Albany. She and her husband, John, have two sons Voorheesville in the schools.

Saia said she accepted the original appointment to the board because, when she looked at the its composition, she thought that it was missing a lawyer/business function and she checked both of those boxes. And with two kids in the system and being close to many families in the district, she felt an obligation to serve.

In her new role, Saia’s plan is to lead by consensus. She says, “"I don’t think I have any special role at all. By that I mean, the way I have told the superintendent and my fellow board members how I want to handle things is that Superintendent [Brian] Hunt contacts all of us at the same time, and provides us all with the same information." She says about the board’s relationship with Hunt, "We have been collaborative all along with him; he is doing a great job.”

Hunt says about Saia, “We have very good lines of communication; we try to have that flow of information going both ways, and I think we work very well together.” He adds, “We’ve made a lot of progress over the past two years, and are looking forward to making even more progress in the coming years.” Hunt has been Voorheesville superintendent since July 2015.

Saia wants to make sure the community understands what the board is doing, and says there is a focus on transparency and open communication with the community. She says, "We are transparent, we’ve enacted a number of things, like Board Docs, a comprehensive system that allows anyone to go online and look at past meeting materials and track and identfy specific issues.”

Asked about her goals now that she is president, Saia said, “It's a continuation of the good work we have been doing.” She wants to be careful with budgets, and careful with capital expenditures, because, she says, “It's all one pot of money.” She adds, "I think we are being very diligent about that.” Saia says what has helped the board is that it asked the superintendent, when he started, to develop a five-year strategic plan. This helps the board identify needs in a more processed, organized, and purposeful way.

In the classroom, Saia says the most effective thing the board has done is to look carefully at curricula  —  taking a step back and looking at why subjects were taught as they were,

and not accepting things because that's how they always were done, but rather taking a fresh look and thinking about how to manage things.

Saia says a major success has been the expansion of accelerated classes, math in the seventh grade and science in the eighth grade. She also says the district has expanded Project Lead the Way, a not-for-profit program that fosters science, technology, engineering, and math curricula.

Sais also recognizes that college is not the right path for all students, and that the board needs to think about different opportunities kids can have. She says the work-based learning program is trying to accommodate as many children who are interested in going down that track.

On required state tests and the movement over the last several years of parents keeping their children from taking tests, Saia says, “"I think it is a parent's decision. There is some downside to opting out," she said since it leaves the district with a smaller pool of information to go by and “doesn’t let us identify, with precision, how well we are doing.” She says her kids have always been tested, and thinks they need to get used to that setting, but reiterates it's the parents’ choice.

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