April 21 was somewhat emotional for Victoria McLaren and trustees as it was her last school board meeting at the helm of the Onteora School District.
McLaren, a 16-year employee of the district, recently announced she is leaving in May to assume the role of assistant superintendent of business for the Highland School District.
Marystephanie Corsones has already begun work as McLaren’s assistant to ensure a smooth transition. She will then become interim superintendent starting in May until the board finds a permanent replacement.
“I’d like to lead off by offering on behalf of the board and the district our real heartfelt thanks and appreciation for Superintendent McLaren for her 16 years of service to the district in a variety of different capacities,” board president Laurie Osmond said.
Other trustees echoed their appreciation for McLaren’s dedication and service.
After each message of praise, McLaren, sometimes choked up, politely said thank you.
“I just really personally want to thank Superintendent McLaren. You have been a wonderful influence on this district, and you’ve been a great friend. It’s been lovely working with you,” Trustee Kevin Salem said. “You’re so collaborative, it’s very hard to be quiet and brilliant. But you are. And I appreciate that you listen first all the time.”
Trustee Dafne DeJesus expressed gratitude for McLaren’s hard work during Covid to keep the district open.
“You made a lot of tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. You can’t make everybody happy, but I think you really did a spectacular job of keeping our children fed and as safe as possible and our families informed as much as you could,” DeJesus said.
“And again, to remind everybody, we were really the only school district that was open five days a week and provided meals every day and all kinds of services. A lot of kids just didn’t miss a beat. And we really owe it to your coordination. I know you worked a lot of tireless hours on that,” she added.
“So as a parent and as a board member, and as a community member, I really appreciate what you have done for the district. And I just wanted to let you know that.”
Trustee Emily Sherry said she values McLaren’s relationship that goes back to when her children started in the district.
“Victoria has always led with kindness and empathy, whether it was with my children and conversations that we’ve had around their education, or through the children that I represent through The Table (The Table at Woodstock).
Sherry recalled how McLaren jumped into action seeking help to get meals to students as soon as it became apparent Covid-19 would force the district to close the school buildings.
“I was in Manhattan and got a call from Victoria, who said, ‘I think we’re going to have to close the schools. And I have to make sure these kids are fed; can you come meet with me with a number of other community representatives and see what we can do using The Table and any other resources that we have to make sure the children are fit,’” Sherry said.
“And that was the first call that I got. That was before I spoke to (Woodstock Supervisor) Bill McKenna. That was before I spoke to Neil (Smoller) at the (Village) Apothecary, that was Victoria. And to me, that represents the heart of Victoria, and what she brought to our district, which I think is going to be difficult to replace, and I’m grateful for it,” Sherry said. “And my kids have been grateful for it. And so is The Table. So thank you for all of that.”
An emotional Trustee Valerie Storey said, “What I can’t say anything more that hasn’t been said already. Thank you.”
Vice President Rob Kurnit, who said he’s known McLaren for a long time, also extended his thanks.
“I appreciate all the time and the work that she’s done. And I just want to say thank you,” he said.
“Although I’ve known you for a very short time, I have seen your impact as a superintendent, both as a student and the representative for students and the board,” said Leon Savage, the board’s student representative.
“You’ve done an amazing job, especially over the Covid-19 pandemic, with getting students fed and still getting them educated, which is something that I’ve seen a lot of issues with across the country.”