PLATTSBURGH - Msgr. Robert H. Aucoin is embarking on a new path, and it's one that involves saying goodbye to Seton Catholic Central School.
Aucoin has been assigned to oversee The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Mary in Potsdam and St. Patrick's Church in Colton in response to the shortage of clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. The assignment is bittersweet for Aucoin, who has spent the last four years serving as principal of the high school.
"What I'll miss most is daily contact with people," said Aucoin. "Obviously you have that in a parish, but it's not exactly the same volume on a day-to-day basis. I'll miss that interaction with the students, interaction with the faculty."
"But, there's a great need for priests in the parishes," added Aucoin. "And, I felt that was a greater need right now."
Heavy-hearted, Aucoin leaves behind the accomplishments made at Seton in the past four years - which include improving the school's academic record and firming its financial stability.
"I've tried very hard to raise the academic standards," said Aucoin, who cited the school's accreditation by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools last December as an example. "We are the only accredited institution in this area, certainly in Clinton County."
The value of a parochial school education, of which Aucoin has long been a staunch supporter, is something he feels people will continue to appreciate even after his departure.
"The focus in public education has certainly changed, even with No Child Left Behind," said Aucoin. "The focus on success is measured in terms of what you achieve. We like to measure success, rather, in who you become."
The underlying philosophy of the Catholic school system, said Aucoin, is "the development of the person in the image and likeness of God," which, as he says, is the true barometer of success.
"That's a hard commodity to quantify, but it's a real commodity," Aucoin said.
Though Aucoin is leaving, he's not leaving behind the reins of Seton Catholic to a total stranger. Catherine Russell, most recently a guidance counselor with the Crown Point Central School District, has taken over for Aucoin and is someone he knows quite well.
"I taught her," he said.
Russell is a 1973 graduate of Immaculate Heart Central School in Watertown, where Aucoin served in roles as an educator and principal for more than 15 years.
"I've known her all these years ... She's always had an affection for Catholic schools and taught in them when she was first out of college," said Aucoin. "So, she's coming back to her roots, so to speak."
"She's very competent and knows education well," added Aucoin. "I'm sure she'll do very well."