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May 4, 2009

My Turn: Coming home to serve local students


This week's "My turn" column is by Patricia Bliss, principal of St. Mary's School in Oneonta.

As a native of Cooperstown, I am so happy to have been given the opportunity to return to Otsego County to work and live here once again.

I brought with me 28 years of work and life experiences from the good people of northern New Jersey. And I must say, Thomas Wolfe was wrong when he said you can't go home again.

I have found that the mission of the schools I knew in New Jersey is the same as the schools I now know here in New York. That mission is to build a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning. Add to that a dedication to strengthen the formation of character, compassion and values, and we are still no different from one another regardless of, whether we are public, private or religious.

We at St. Mary's believe, as all educators do, that we are called to educate the mind, the heart and the spirit. We provide our students with experiences that will enable them to grow as responsible citizens of their communities and to become lifelong learners.

Our academic aim is to educate each child to master skills of reading, computation and communication, to value past and present cultures within the world community, to explore scientific theory and to experience and appreciate music, art and physical education.

Again, I stress, I believe this is what all schools strive to do. I applaud my colleagues in Otsego and Delaware counties. I have joined a group of dedicated professionals whose commitment serves as an example to the entire community.

Community involvement is a key component in the ability to meet the challenges that we all face. It is a matter of trust, trust in our own abilities and trust in the ability of each group and organization to work together.

I am energized by the partnership I have experienced. I have found that the entire community has made children a priority. One of many good examples is the Tri-County AEYC sponsoring the Month of the Young Child, whose theme this year is "Bring Communities Together for Children _ Children Bring Communities Together."

The collaboration between the town of Oneonta and all the area pre-schools speaks volumes to this positive message: We must work together to meet the challenges we all face. We must work together to bring about the change we want to happen.

I like to think of challenges as an island in a sea of strengths. We must have the tools needed to give our children the best opportunity possible.

There is no question that finances are tight, and getting tighter. But we can't let that stop us from being creative and finding ways to meet our goals. It doesn't matter if the glass is half empty or half full. What we know is that it is twice as big as it needs to be.

So, our challenge is to find a fit that will gives us what we need and move forward. Partnering with our community will offer us more opportunities for success. Jo-Ann LaMonica understands that. She has given a lifetime of her time and talent to the community of Oneonta. We at St. Mary's thank the community for joining us to honor Jo-Ann's service to the children of this community.

I am very proud to be the principal of St. Mary's School. I am so appreciative of the encouragement and support of the community and thank those parents who have chosen to entrust their family to our family. Visit our website,

www.stmarysoneonta.org/school.

I happen to agree with Bon Jovi when he sings, "Who says you can't go home _ There's only one place they call me one of their own." Thank you all for welcoming me back.

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at tshalor@thedailystar.com or 432-1000, ext. 214.