The Unfinished Job Of Education

As much as test scores and school budgets make news, they aren’t the real focus of education.

The job, as Greg DeCinque so perfectly put it Thursday, is about community building. Educators are building the community of tomorrow one student at at time. Educators are on the front lines every day teaching the the children of today how to be the leaders of tomorrow. DeCinque, former president of Jamestown Community College, and Deke Kathman, retiring Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, have made their mark on the community. Now, they turn over those efforts to Cory Duckworth and Tim Mains, respectively.

DeCinque was the driving force behind Jamestown Community College for nearly two decades, overseeing a change in the way the the college is sponsored, creating JCC’s campus in Olean, finalizing a greater collaboration with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and providing the impetus for construction of the college’s beautiful science center and new residence halls.

Kathman, meanwhile, helped steer the district through its move to full-day kindergarten and the start of a 4-year-old preschool program earlier in his career. As superintendent, Kathman was a steady hand during tough times that saw the state freeze its aid to school districts while continuing to upgrade school buildings and prepare the district for the Common Core State Standards.

For all their accomplishments, neither DeCinque or Kathman ever thought their job was finished. They always acknowledged there was a segment of the student population that still needed to be reached, a piece of education that could be done better or physical improvements that were needed. More importantly, both men were committed to the community. They are familiar faces in a variety of settings, whether it’s education coalitions, the city’s Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission, the United Way or countless other civic groups.

It’s reassuring that, even as they retire from their professional lives, Kathman and DeCinque will stay involved in the community. At the same time, fresh blood can help revitalize the community as long as the positions are filled with smart, focused and motivated people. Just as Kathman and DeCinque have left their positive mark on southern Chautauqua County, now is the time for their replacements to do the same.

Community building, after all, is never finished.