Devotion to students a
By SUZANNE MOORE
CHAZY ó A pie in the face is no insult to
After all, he asks for it.
It was March Madness at Chazy Central Rural
School, a zany event featuring soccer with all-new rules and a
tug-o-war over the muddiest puddle on the grounds.
And to finish off the biathlon, students
aimed cream pies at teachers or at Blair ó no less a personage
than the school superintendent himself.
"I want you to have fun," heíd told the kids
"But I want to have something back. I want
excellence. I want you to bear down."
Bear down they did ó throwing pies with great
abandon and sometimes terrific accuracy.
"It was an absolute ball," Blair laughed.
And if that treat wasnít enough to encourage
devoted study, he had other methods up his sleeve.
A group of junior-high students stays at
school until 7 p.m., working to boost their grades. Blair sits
in with them.
And though summer isnít far off, the
superintendent keeps after the kids who earned
"Iím still writing, still calling (the
parents)," he said. "Thereís still time."
He tells the kids, "Youíve got to plug on to
pass that final."
School will remain open until 9 or 10 p.m. so
students can study for those exams, he said.
Blair will be there then, too.
Thereís more than paperwork to the job of
superintendent, he says.
"My style is to go and have cookies in the
kindergarten and josh around with the seniors. I want them to
understand that I really care about them."
Blair was superintendent at Lake Placid
Central School for 17 years, where he invented March Madness
and where he shunned his very isolated office in favor of
headquarters right in the thick of things.
"I established myself in a little niche" near
a special-ed room, he said. "All the children going into the
class had to pass by me.
"People called that unorthodox. I called it
one more individual in a school showing concern for the
Blair, 58, came to Chazy in December just to
fill in for a while. Next, heíd planned to find a school
somewhere having serious difficulties and jump in as trouble
But, impressed with the long tradition of
excellence at CCRS, heís agreed to stay on for three
"My kids think Iím a traitor," he laughed,
referring to a long-standing soccer rivalry between his three
sonsí alma mater, Lake Placid, and CCRS.
And his wife, Mary, "thinks Iím nuts."
In fact, the man retired at the end of
In truth, he never stopped working.
He was interim superintendent at Schroon Lake
Central School for nine months, then spent the same length of
time at Catskill Central.
During his tenure there, taxpayers passed a
$27 million construction bond that had failed time and time
"The guy was a dynamo," said Gene Beirne,
principal of Catskill High School.
"Anyone who would listen to him, heíd do a
presentation. He set up a phone tree ó everyone was asked to
call 10 people.
"That bond issue passed with a 6-1 ratio ó he
carried it on his shoulders. Thatís what he did."
Blair always aims high.
"I think Chazy can be a Blue Ribbon School,"
he said, referring to an elite designation held by just a few
schools in New York state.
Two weeks ago, his son Michael graduated from
the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
The school superintendent tapped the cover of
a scrapbook, lovingly crafted by Mary in honor of their sonís
"His dream was to fly jets," Blair said.
"Heís three-quarters of the way there."
Whatever dream his students have, whether to
be a plumber or president, he tells them, "Iím behind you. Go
Education is "the foot in the door," he said.
"We have to tell kids we expect them to pass ó in a fun,
loving and firm way.
"Firm is where the bear comes in," he said,
his voice taking on a bit of a growl. "You will bring in your
homework; you will get it done."
Blairís father, Gerald Sr., who had to quit
school after eighth grade to help support his family, wanted
more for his own children.
"There was no question," the superintendent
said, "My father just said, ĎYou will go to school.í"
That message was improved upon by Blairís
eighth-grade social-studies teacher, who fired his enthusiasm
to teach, too.
He still sees Jean Blackmore in his mindís
eye, a short, dynamo of a woman who just "bubbled over" with
"She really cared for every one of us," Blair
He treasures two of his own high-school
memories above all others: scoring the winning basket in the
last seconds of a basketball game and scoring 100 percent on
the New York history Regents.
"Those are the kinds of things I want kids to
experience," he said.
At CCRS, the whole school family will help
Blair has recruited custodians to help grill
burgers and hot dogs for the kids once a month or so. Next
year, heíll match staff ó "cooks, bus drivers, everybody" ó
with a few students each month.
"Theyíll say hello to them, ask how schoolís
Acquainting kids with more adults gives them
more opportunity to find their own "Mrs. Blackmore," he
"Most people think their school is doing a
pretty good job," Blair said, thumbing the draft copy of a new
"I honestly know we can do a lot better
"My whole day, I concentrate on that. I never
lose focus of that."
Suzanne Moore can be reached by e-mail: