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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 23, 2012
Poirier at the wheel for GCSD transportation
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Danielle Poirier likes a challenge. And she’s in for one.
Last week, Poirier was named transportation director for the Guilderland schools. On March 5, she’ll take the reins from Christine Sagendorf who is retiring.
“I’ll jump right in head first,” said Poirier. Since 2008, she has been the supervisor of transportation for the Averill Park district, which transports about 3,400 students. At Guilderland, that number will jump to 5,400.
The annual year-round salary is $88,500.
At 42, Poirier said, “I wanted to move to a bigger district….I like challenges.”
She recently attended a reception to meet the Guilderland bus drivers and staff and said she was very impressed.
For the last few years, faced with a budget gap, the Guilderland School Board has carefully scrutinized the recommendations Sagendorf made for bus purchases, rather than routinely approving them as in former years.
This doesn’t faze Poirier. “We’re all facing the same issues,” she said of school districts across the state. “We have a lot of challenges with finances.” Funding for buses, she said, can be “confusing for people.”
Poirier went on to outline her philosophy on bus purchases, “You’re better off to keep going with the flow and get the aid,” she said. “We have to follow strict rules,” she said of the twice-a-year inspections that school buses must pass. “The Department of Transportation doesn’t care that we don’t have any money.”
Thirty-three qualified applicants vied for the job, as well as many who weren’t qualified, said Lin Severance, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources. The district was most interested in hiring a sitting director of transportation, she said.
“They understand all the nuances,” she said, from personnel to budgeting.
A committee representing “all aspects of the organization” deliberated over the finalists; four applicants were interviewed. Severance said that the committee included a member of the district office team; a board member; a school administrator; the director of special programs; and representatives from the transportation department, including a bus driver, a mechanic, a bus attendant, a fleet supervisor, the assistant supervisor, and a secretary.
Poirier was chosen, said Severance because “she seemed to have the ability to resolve issues.” She went on, “There’s a directness to her…She demonstrated compassion and understanding for the people she’d oversee but also understood what had to be accomplished for the organization.”
In replacing Sagendorf, Poirier would have “big shoes to fill,” Severance said. Sagendorf was faced with some tough decisions, said Severance, concluding, “Drivers always said she was fair.”
She concluded of Poirier, “We’re all looking forward to getting her on board.”
Poirier grew up in Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks, the youngest of five children; she has three sisters and a brother. Her late father was a lumberjack and her mother, a homemaker, also worked at the town hall.
“Yes, I walked to the bus stop,” she said with a laugh, noting that placement of bus stops is always an issue for school districts.
After graduating from Tupper Lake High School, Poirier attended North Country Community College to study recreational facilities management. She went for one year and then got married and moved to Long Island with her new husband. She described the move as “culture shock.”
Poirier stayed home to raise her firstborn, Levi, and also worked as an assistant director of an after-school program.
“I got so homesick, we just landed here,” she said of the Capital Region, which was a shorter drive to the Adirondacks. She worked for United Parcel Service from 1995 to 1999, and had a daughter, Lacey. “I worked part-time in the early mornings so the kids never had to be with a babysitter,” she said.
Poirier’s partner is Kathy Matrese. “She’s been in my life for 20 years,” said Poirier. “I’ve helped her raise two sons.” One is in the Marine reserves, and the other is a Spanish major at the State University of New York College at Potsdam.
Poirier’s son, now 21, is also in the military, a soldier in the United States Army. He is stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia and is a field artillery tactical data specialist. Her daughter, at 18, is a full-time student at Hudson Valley Community College. She will be in the Disney program next semester and wants to be an event planner.
After four years at UPS, Poirier took a job that turned into a career. She became a bus driver for Schodack.
“I loved it,” she said of driving a school bus. “I loved the kids. They are fun….When you’re a bus driver, if you choose it to be, you are your own boss.”
Poirier drove nine years for Schodack. The last three years, she worked as a driver with a regular route and was also a driver trainer. “The district invested in me so I could get the certification,” said Poirier.
The next step was to become a supervisor. “I took the Civil Service exam and did well,” said Poirier. She was called by Averill Park and took the job there in August 2008.
“I love what I do,” Poirier said of overseeing transportation.
While Poirier said it is too soon to have specific goals at Guilderland, she said last week that her impressions so far are, “It’s a wonderful facility, and everybody was very friendly. I’m eager to start.”
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