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New Johnstown superintendent settling in

Crankshaw says he’s done switching school districts

New Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent William Crankshaw is pictured in his new office Thursday at the Knox Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — New Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent William Crankshaw is done shuffling from school district to school district. He is now solely committed to the Johnstown school system in more ways than one.

“This is definitely my last school district,” he said Thursday. “I plan to retire here.”

The 54-year-old Johnstown native isn’t quite near that point yet, having started Oct. 1. But in an interview at his second floor Knox Building office, he said he is definitely committed to making improvements in the district.

“We have a lot of support in the community,” Crankshaw says.

The new superintendent was appointed to that position Aug. 27 by the Board of Education, replacing Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan. He was named to the $162,000 per year post running through September 30, 2025. Crankshaw was hired from his position as superintendent of the Cooperstown Central School District.

Crankshaw — a Gloversville resident and Johnstown High School graduate — is a former music teacher in Johnstown, Crankshaw also once served as principal of Glebe Street Elementary School.

He received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ithaca College in 1989, and a master’s in music education in 1995 from The College of Saint Rose. He earned his school administrative credentials at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2006 and a doctorate in educational leadership from the Sage Graduate School in 2011.

Crankshaw began his education career teaching music for a year in the Fort Plain Central School District. After Fort Plain, he taught seventh to 12th grade music in Johnstown for 14 years, and was the music department’s co-chair. He started his administrative career as principal of Johnstown’s Glebe Street Elementary School, where he stayed until 2009 before being named elementary principal, director of elementary curriculum and instruction and Committee on Special Education chairperson in the Northville Central School District. Crankshaw served in Northville from 2009 to 2013.

In 2013, he was named superintendent of the Remsen Central School District, and he has been superintendent in Cooperstown since 2016.

Crankshaw was asked what he brings to the job as city school superintendent.

“The main thing is the familiarity with the community,” he responded.

He adds, “I’ve learned a lot being away.”

He said he learned how to help school districts get to the most important work on its agenda – helping their students learn and improve themselves. He also said his teaching experience puts him in a good position to know what teachers need in the classroom.

“We need to educate each other in the community,” Crankshaw said.

So far, Crankshaw said he has received “overwhelming” cooperation from the daily people he comes in contact with. They include the administrators, teachers, Board of Education members, teachers, teacher union members, families and students in the community. A “benefit” has been some of the cooperation due to people knowing Crankshaw from his previous service in education in the area, he said.

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Crankshaw said he has been fully briefed and is satisfied with the way things are being handled in the district. He credits Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook, district COVID coordinator, for staying on top of the situation.

“We’re dealing with two things,” the superintendent said.

Attendance, especially absenteeism online, is an ongoing issue the district is dealing with, Crankshaw said.

The other issue during this COVID learning period, he said, is the “challenge” of the hybrid learning process that is being experienced by teachers and parents everywhere.

“The district did a really nice job presenting,” he said.

Johnstown school district voters this year approved a $38.9 million 2020-21 district budget – with a 5 percent tax levy increase – in a revote after it initially being rejected. The previous year, in 2019, city school voters did the same thing in a budget that shelved athletics funding and carried a 14 percent tax hike.

“Financially, we’re in a better place than we were two or three years ago,” Crankshaw assured.

He said he’s trying to introduce more “responsibility” in the budget process. He said the Board of Education’s Audit Committee led by Joseph LoDestro takes its job very seriously as the district continues to look at long-range funding. He said work on the next budget has already begun and every line item must be scrutinized very closely.

“I love the budget process,” Crankshaw said, in part because it presents opportunities. “My job is really to tell the story.”

On building relocations, the superintendent said the district is still tweaking moves. But he said transitions are being made with great help from district staff. The Knox Building includes administrative offices. The district currently has the former Jansen Avenue School on the market. Other changes have included using the former Glebe Street Elementary School and Knox for other spaces for BOCES, IT and pre-K programs. Seventh and eighth grades were moved to Johnstown Junior-Senior High School.

There has been much realignment of facilities and staff.

“I think the principals have done a masterful job,” Crankshaw said. “Although there have been challenges, I have heard no complaints. I would say the moves have gone well.”

Crankshaw said the stakeholders in the district have done their job and continue to do so.

“The challenges are getting all the students to attend,” he said.

In the meantime, he said another challenge will be to provide Johnstown students with more fun and extracurricular activities in this time of a pandemic. He said he fully supports a return to athletics, and other activities. He would also like to see drama activities – even if it involves skits online – to present as fun alternatives for students. He said the district is also involved in much fundraising.

“We’re offering as many club activities as we can,” Crankshaw said.

In the area of academics, Crankshaw said he wants the Johnstown school system to be a “lighthouse” of sorts – a beacon for other districts to emulate. He said it is his “overarching” plan to improve the excellence of the district while giving students the same opportunities he had as a kid.

“I was a free lunch kid,” he said, discussing the fact over 50 percent of the students live below the poverty line.

But Crankshaw says these issues transcend just not “having enough food in your stomach,” but rather also working to improve the family unit in the Johnstown community. In that sense, he said he hopes to help make a profound difference in the years ahead.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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