Public education is increasingly squeezed each year.
Economic pressures, the burden of taxpayers struggling to pay the bills let alone spend more money elsewhere and the increasing standards, just to name a few obstacles, make it more and more difficult for schools to adequately do the job.
Yet it’s one of the more important jobs out there.
The quality of public education impacts the workforce, the economy, politics and much more, pushing out into the world tomorrow’s workers and leaders, and most importantly, citizens.
That is the most precious aspect of the education system and the one where the impact, at least personally - which to me is most important – is felt the greatest.
The education system, and more importantly, the individuals, the educators within it, play a major role in so many people’s lives. I’m not just talking about the youth passing through life without adequate parental guidance and in the midst of unsavory influences, though these individuals clearly benefit greatly from a quality education system and passionate educational heroes.
But even typical youth are touched and inspired in brilliant and beautiful ways by educational heroes.
The public education world recently lost two such heroes.
Fred Wachtmeister retired from Plattsburgh City School after decades as a teacher and union head.
Ken Cringle is retiring from Saranac Central School, where he worked for decades as a teacher, coach, principal and currently, the superintendent.
I suppose among the people reading this, one or two, or possibly even a few, may grumble because at one point in time in their lives these men rubbed them the wrong way through a decision they made, a stance they took or a matter they disagreed with the individual on, but no one has passed through life and career without upsetting someone; at least not the individuals who are so passionate about their jobs their fire is noticeable from a distance and burns up close.
As an education reporter for 12 years and in my role as editor of the North Countryman and The Burgh, I have been privileged to engage in lengthy discussions with both these educators, and I consistently recognized I was in the presence of knowledgeable professionals passionate about education, especially students, and who have been successful in their careers.
They were consistently open and forthcoming over the years and their actions showed they put students first.
Fred consistently shared with me his thoughts and feelings and always made himself available for stories the public needed to know about, and offered his expertise on educational issue I might have been confused by.
It was always clear he loved the public education system and its students and wanted both to succeed.
I first met Ken when he was a principal, and from day one he made it clear he would be open and it was about the students. He always has been available, consistently calling to share successes and educational issues readers should know about, and he always answered when I called, eager to provide wisdom on educational issues.
But most importantly, both men care about students and understand the important part education plays in so many lives and in a functioning society. They also played a role in the statewide and nationwide recognition their districts have received over the years for academic success.
With ever increasing demands, including the demand to do much, much more with less, the education system is struggling, though thanks to the professionals in the field who care, it continues to thrive.
Sadly, that field is losing two of its professionals, though I know I wish them both happiness and joy in their pursuits, especially after students, educators and the community have enjoyed their public service for so many years.
Stephen Bartlett may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org