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DELMAR: The last first day for Loomis

Everybody has a first day and a last day of school, even superintendents. Les Loomis gave his 20th and final address to the incoming faculty and staff of the Bethlehem Central School District on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at the newly remodeled Bethlehem Central High School.

This will be my last year at Bethlehem Central School District, said Loomis as many staff in the crowd heard the news for the first time that Loomis will be leaving the district at the end of the school year next June.

"Bethlehem is a true community, and everyone here values educating our students," Loomis said. "I wouldn't trade this work for anything."

Knowledge, character and value, the three hallmarks of the district, were once again key areas Loomis addressed with the staff. He also warned the educators of a growing trend in the community within the last few years to vote no on the school budget, adding the issue is more than general taxpayer fatigue or battles with reassessment.

"There needs to be a relentless focus on continuing to increase the education quality and connecting with the community," Loomis said. "Community outreach needs to be more deeply embedded."

Loomis received a standing ovation from his colleagues, and new board president James Lytle joked, "I just want to thank you for giving us one more challenge this year."

Along with the search for a new superintendent, the district will draw new boundaries with redistricting, begin implementation of a full-day kindergarten program, build a new elementary school and continue major construction districtwide, along with trying to pass a budget.

"Getting schools ready for opening day this year proved to be a special challenge," said Lytle, referring to the many changes at the high school, including a new entrance, changes in the auditorium, and a new cafeteria. Work continued outside as the faculty walked inside the doors of the high school.

"When, literally, the dust settles from this project, you will conclude it was well worth the effort," said Lytle.

The student population at Bethlehem in 1987, Loomis' first year as superintendent, totaled 3,750. This year it is 5,200.

"The Bethlehem community has always expected top-quality education for a reasonable expenditure, and we deliver," Loomis said.

Loomis said the district has given his children a "great education."

"I have seen you accomplish extraordinary things with our students inspiring their thinking, strengthening their character, touching their hearts," he said. "Because of you, BC is in good hands.""

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