LFCSD Superintendent, Louis Patrei, Announces Retirement
By Stephanie Sorrell-White, Telegram Staff Writer
LITTLE FALLS, N.Y. — For every kindergarten orientation at Benton Hall Academy, Little Falls City School District Superintendent Louis Patrei will quiz the students on their ABCs and their numbers.
This year, someone else will have to fill in his shoes.
Patrei told the school board last week that after 36 1/2 years with the school district he will retire effective Aug. 14 in accordance with the terms and conditions of his contract.
“I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to a school and a community that has embraced me and provided me with a career which has been rewarding and fulfilling,” Patrei wrote in a May 11 letter addressed to the school board commissioners.
In the letter, Patrei said he made the decision to retire from his career he started 38 years ago because “it is time for me to enter a new chapter of my life and dedicate time to my wife, children and grandchildren.”
During an interview at his office on Tuesday, the 63-year-old Patrei added, “I feel the time is right.”
Patrei started his career in the district as a guidance counselor.
“It’s always been my dream to be an educator,” said Patrei. “I thought I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. I felt strongly I could make a difference. I wanted to work with students in the counseling capacity and give them guidance in their careers.”
A 1970 graduate of Ilion High School, Patrei earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Utica College, and a master’s degree and a certification of advanced study from State University of New York in Oneonta. He eventually earned his administration certification from the State University of New York from Cortland.
Patrei said he started looking at administration as part of his career path after some positions in the school district opened up.
“I thought I could have more of an impact as an administrator,” he said. “I just decided to try it. I’m real happy I did it.”
In 1983, Patrei became principal of the Monroe Street Elementary School. He would later become high school principal for four years. In 2008, he was appointed as superintendent.
During his time as an administrator, Patrei said one of his greatest accomplishments is his involvement with the reconstruction project at the current Benton Hall Academy building from 1994 to 1997. It required him to help transition the two elementary schools into one at Benton Hall Academy, where he would eventually become principal. Patrei also said it meant lining up the curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade in one building, sixth through eighth in the middle school and ninth through 12th in the high school building.
“I enjoyed that tremendously,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work. We really came together.”
Patrei said his focus in education has been on “the whole child.”
“That’s part of what I’ve really strived for,” he said. “We deliver a lot of services to kids. Our philosophy is the ‘child first.’ Our teaching staff and support staff, their focus is on loving children and caring for children. It’s a pleasure to be a part of that and the general philosophy to see the whole child and help that child any way we can.”
During his lengthy tenure at the district, Patrei had seen the children of former students walk through the front doors of the school. During the kindergarten orientation, he also sees a number of hands go up when he asks if there are any of his former students there. He said he has also had the pleasure of hiring former students.
“It’s wonderful to see our kids be so successful,” he said.
Patrei said it will be hard for him to step away from his position and the school district that he has come to “love” and “cherish,” but did say the one thing he won’t miss will be “snow days.”
School Board President William Dodge said he has known Patrei for 25 years, not just from his time on the school board, but also because his three children have gone through the school district with Patrei serving as an administrator.
“I don’t think I’ve met a more honest man or a man with more integrity than Lou Patrei,” Dodge said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “He’s always about the kids.”
Dodge said the board has contacted Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua about how to proceed forward with a search for a new superintendent and will begin a discussion about what they would like in a superintendent during the board’s next meeting in June.