New superintendent, same mission

Thomas Douglas took over as superintendent of the Bethlehem Central School District on Jan. 1.

Thomas Douglas took over as superintendent of the Bethlehem Central School District on Jan. 1.

Thomas Douglas knew of the positive reputation of Bethlehem Central schools before applying for the district’s vacant superintendent job.

“Some of my friends had previously worked here, and knew about the district,” said Douglas. “This was even from 20 years ago, and they were very positive about it.”

In late September, Douglas, 46, was appointed as the incoming superintendent. He replaces Michael Tebbano, who retired at the end of 2011 after a 38-year career in education.

Douglas comes from the Chenango Valley Central School District in Binghamton, where he was in a similar role for nearly three years. He’s a native of central New York and has worked in a number of districts in the central and western portions of the state, first as a teacher in the late ‘80s, then as an administrator.

Douglas enters the position as the district is weeks away from starting in earnest budget discussions for the 2012-13 school year. He admitted that there’s a steep learning curve, but said districts around the state face many of the same obstacles. For example, he talked about the possibility of districts facing insolvency in the next one to three years if the status quo is maintained.

“The schools such as Bethlehem and Chenango Valley right now are probably on that farther window if their finances are not in order,” said Douglas. “From what I’ve seen, the finances (in BC Schools) have been managed fairly well, and the district has been trying to take proactive steps for long-term savings down the road.”

Chenango Valley officials are currently considering a consolidation study involving the nearby Chenango Forks School District. It’s an idea that Douglas presented to the community in May 2011 after the district’s Board of Education agreed such ideas should be pursued.

Douglas stressed the importance of shared service agreements to help districts with dwindling revenues. He cited a decision that turned a failing food services operation in Chenango Valley into a profitable asset for the district through an agreement with the region’s BOCES.

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