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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 9, 2011

Winchell retires
A head for figures, heart for Voorheesville

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Over the last four decades, Sarita Winchell has seen changes come to the Voorheesville Central School District and she’s been the driving force behind some of them.

After nine years of heading the district’s business department, Winchell is retiring.  She started working four hours a day, with a master’s degree in economics, 37 years ago.

“I took on more and more and more responsibility,” she said of ending her career as the assistant superintendent for business.  “That’s the kind of person I am.”

Looking back, Winchell said, she’s most proud of three things: Working with the district’s three bargaining units to keep health insurance costs low, enabling improvements to the aging elementary school, and bringing together a group of eight small schools to insure themselves for workers’ compensation claims — the group now includes 10 schools and has cut Voorheesville’s workers’ compensation insurance cost in half.

Also, Winchell said, it has been a challenge to keep the budget straight during the recession.  Voters approved the district’s $21 million budget proposal last month.

“Our big thing here is stability,” she said, noting that the district has maintained its course offerings for students while other districts have had to make cuts.

The district’s current superintendent, Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder, is the seventh one that Winchell has worked with, she said.  The only superintdendent of the district that she didn’t work with was Clayton A. Bouton, for whom the high school is named.  “I’m kind of like the furniture here,” she laughed.

When Winchell arrived to work at the school in 1974, after deciding that she didn’t like the atmosphere at General Electric, state aid figures were done by hand, she said.  Being that close to it enforces understanding it, she said.

In the early 1980s, after she had become treasurer in 1978, she used a computerized spreadsheet for preparing the budget, which was a vast improvement.  Over her tenure, there were changes to the educational approach, also.  When she started, Winchell said, there were no special education programs and no social workers in the school.

Of taking the helm of the business office in 2002, Winchell said, “I wanted to see what I could do.”

“I couldn’t have had a better career,” Winchell said, concluding that it is a privilege “feeling that you’re contributing to the community that you live in.”

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