Schenectady County

Woodlawn principal Coffey to retire

A Schenectady principal who has moved to five different positions in the district is retiring.

A Schenectady principal who has moved to five different positions in the district is retiring.

Barbara Coffey, who is now the principal of Woodlawn Elementary School, will retire at the end of the school year.

She’s taking with her the reward of almost never using a sick day: a sick-time payout of $33,000.

“This is part of our job. It’s very important, particularly for principals. We have to be here,” she said.

Before Woodlawn, she led Howe International Magnet School. Three years ago, that school merged with Central Park to become a K-8 school, and she was moved to Woodlawn.

She will have 24 years at Schenectady when she retires at age 62. But she said she would have stayed if she had not been confident about the many recent changes in the school district.

“That’s the point. I won’t be leaving with a feeling that things won’t move forward,” she said.

The new reading program, which allows children in one classroom to each read at their own level, has proved to be a success. This year, reading specialists are also learning to intervene as soon as a child is confused by a lesson, rather than waiting until the student falls behind.

Specialists vehemently fought the change last year and it is now being phased in slowly in response to their complaints.

“It’s very early, but I can say my building has embraced it,” Coffey said.

Coffey was one of the few principals to win arguments with Facilities Director Steven Raucci, who doled out heat and custodial assistance to some school buildings based on how much he liked the principals.

He refused to fill a vacant custodial position at Coffey’s school after she dared to tell another custodian to clean areas that Raucci had told the employee to ignore.

In a rare defeat, Raucci was forced to eventually hire a custodian for Howe.

“I held my ground,” Coffey said in her retirement interview. “I wasn’t trying to make it him against me. I would tell him, ‘I need this for my school.’ ”

After the last bell rings in June, she plans to “come out and play” with her retired friends.

“I have a new kayak and a new bike,” she said. “I’m in good physical condition. I’m ready to enjoy the next phase of my life as long as it lasts.”

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