SCHROON LAKE u A Clinton County principal is set to take over as superintendent of Schroon Lake Central School.
The Board of Education recently appointed Stephen Gratto, who is currently principal of the 425-student Northeastern Clinton High School in Champlain.
Gratto will start July 1. His contract is for three years at an initial salary of $112,000.
District Clerk Lisa DeZalia, who was on a stakeholder committee that interviewed Gratto, said the group was impressed with his demeanor, preparation and sense of humor.
“We were pleased that his strengths were in the principal duties, which is very important for a small school. He’s going to be a superintendent/principal,” she said.
“I think it’s going to be a nice fit here for Schroon Lake,” she added.
The board had narrowed the search to Gratto and Ginene Mason, principal at AuSable Forks Elementary School in AuSable Valley Central School District.
When reached by telephone, Gratto said he feels very fortunate to have been selected.
“I certainly like working with students and the opportunity to be both a superintendent and a principal was very appealing,” he said.
Gratto, 50, said his strengths are his understanding of what good teaching looks like and the ability to help develop curriculum.
“I believe I’m very student-centered, very passionate about doing whatever needs doing to help students be successful. I have a lot of energy to spend on that goal,” he said.
He said Schroon Lake is a district that is doing a lot of things very well. His top priority is to pay attention and figure out how he can best help the teachers and students be successful.
Before his current position, Gratto taught physics and middle school science at Peru Central School for 13 years.
He has degrees in physics and electrical engineering from SUNY Plattsburgh and Clarkson University. He worked as a computer chip designer for six years before going into education.
“I get more job satisfaction out of my current career,” he said.
The roughly 220-student Schroon Lake district has lacked a permanent superintendent since Bonnie Finnerty stepped down at the end of the 2013-14 school year for personal health reasons.
Veteran administrator James Polunci, who lives in South Glens Falls, has been filling in as superintendent. Polunci has done about a dozen interim stints since retiring in 2003 from Edmeston Central School District in Otsego County, including stops in Lake George, Bolton and Queensbury.
When asked if he would take another job, Polunci said, “If you ask my wife, no.”
“I don’t know if I’ll want to work for a full year and work an hour away,” he said.
Polunci, a former science teacher, said he calculated that he has traveled 24,000 miles for this commute — roughly the circumference of the Earth at the equator.
Polunci said he enjoyed his time in Schroon Lake. The district has a great program and the students are respectful, according to Polunci.
“My staff is really dedicated and they really care about kids. We’re just a good team here and work together to get the job done,” he said.
Polunci said he is preparing information for Gratto and will likely stay on a couple of extra days to help with the transition.
The district will hold a meet-and-greet with Gratto at 6:30 p.m. Thursday before the 7 p.m. school board meeting.