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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 30, 2011
Robert Lewis starts work as special education administrator at BKW
By Zach Simeone
BERNE Robert Lewis says he knew for years that he wanted to work in special education, and he will be leading the pack when he starts his new job this week as Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s director of special education.
“I had worked with some disabled students earlier in life, and I found that I not only enjoyed it, but I was pretty good at it,” Lewis told The Enterprise. “Once I started my grad program, I realized that this was what I wanted to do.”
Recent administrative restructuring at BKW has resulted in the consolidation of duties into this new position to be held by Lewis. The school board voted on May 31 to appoint Lewis to the post, for which he will make $78,000 a year, he said.
Superintendent Paul Dorward said that, with nearly one-fifth of BKW’s students classified as needing special education, “it’s important to have somebody watching over that full-time.”
Lewis, 43, has lived in Burnt Hills for the past 11 years, where he plans to remain for the time being. He grew up in Hanson, Mass., on the shore roughly three miles south of Boston. He got his undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“Growing up, I always liked school,” Lewis said, telling the story of how he got involved in education. “I had been living and working in Massachusetts in the early ’90s, and I wasn’t seeing a lot of success, so I decided to enroll in grad school.”
In 1994, he enrolled at Sage College, where he got his master’s degree in special education.
“I worked for four years in Jefferson Louis BOCES out in Watertown,” he went on, “but my wife and I decided to return to the Capital District. I took a job working as a teacher in Shenendehowa as a special ed. and [academic-intervention services] provider.”
During his seven years at Shenendehowa Middle School, Lewis got his administrative certification from the University at Albany.
“I was looking for something sustainable as a career,” he said of how he got involved with special education. “There were a lot of changes going on in education at the time, and in special education…In grad school, I worked as an intern at North Colonie, and I worked with a couple of high school [special-education] classrooms. I enjoyed the children, working with them, how hard they worked, their attitude about school and about life. I found it refreshing at that point, and knew it was something I wanted to continue with.”
In his new job, Lewis will have three responsibilities: director of special education, a position currently held by Elementary Principal Brian Corey; chair of the committees on special education and pre-school special education (CSE/CPSE), a position currently held by Melissa Crounse; and data warehouse manager.
Corey will work full-time as elementary principal, and Crounse will still work part-time as the CSE/CPSE chair, though she will shift to spending most of her time in the classroom teaching students with disabilities.
She will be restored for eight-tenths of a teaching position, Superintendent Dorward said this spring when the district began advertising the position, “which will help to offset the need to hire another special ed. teacher.”
Lewis said he will be meeting again with the administration to talk about where exactly he will begin.
“We’re going to go over summer responsibilities,” he said, “but for the most part my priorities are going to be to finish up any special ed. matters that are hanging over, and the district data report for August 12 for the state report card.”
All told, Lewis thinks that he and BKW will be a good fit.
“I was either looking for assistant director in a larger district, or, preferably, director in a smaller district,” Lewis said, “and that’s ultimately what I found.”