Former teacher returns as principal

After several years as assistant principal at Hermon-DeKalb Central School, Jamie LaBarge will return to St. Lawrence Central School as the new middle school principal. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

BRASHER FALLS — A former St. Lawrence Central School teacher has returned to the district, but in a different role.

Jamie LaBarge will be taking over as middle school principal on Monday, replacing Christopher Rose, who was selected as the district’s new superintendent.

After spending 11 years as the band director at St. Lawrence Central, she became assistant principal at the Hermon-DeKalb Central School District, a position she has held for 6½ years.

“I was very sad when I left (St. Lawrence Central),” she said.

She found Hermon-DeKalb different than the one she had just left. While St. Lawrence Central is split into elementary, middle and high schools, Hermon-DeKalb is pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

“I never really worked with little kids. It was a whole different experience because those classrooms just work differently. It was a great experience. I was really glad I was able to have that to see the way things work vertically to the entire school,” Mrs. LaBarge said.

One large difference between the two school districts is the number of students. The state Education Departments lists 1,026 kindergarten through grade 12 students at St. Lawrence Central, and 382 students at Hermon-DeKalb.

“When I worked here, I loved working in a small school. I always thought that Brasher was a small school,” Mrs. LaBarge said.

Despite the size difference, she said, “A lot of the things that I’ll be doing for my job here are very similar.”

She said moving to a new role in a new school wasn’t on her agenda.

“I wasn’t looking for anything else. I enjoyed what I was doing, and I found out that things were changing up here. So I was like, ‘Well, I’ll apply and see what happens,’” she said.

She had already experienced an administrative role while at Brasher.

“I did my administrative internship here. I did some with Mr. Stewart (Superintendent Robert Stewart), but I was in this office primarily. So I spent a lot of time here. It’s nice because I had that experience here, so I have a better idea of what the job is like and how things run out of this office,” she said.

Mrs. LaBarge said that although the building looks different because of capital project work that took place after her departure, many of the faces are familiar.

“Thankfully I do know a lot of the staff members already. There are some new staff members that have come in within the last couple of years. But I do know a pretty good portion of the staff members,” she said.

In addition, she said, some of the students’ faces will also be familiar from her days as band director.

Mrs. LaBarge will officially start on Monday.

“It’s different because it’s a weird year with COVID and everything. I’m really excited,” she said.

She has been working with Mr. Rose in the days leading up to her moving into the principal’s chair. To her advantage, Mr. Rose will be down the hallway in the superintendent’s office if she has any questions.

“It’s really handy,” she said.

She said it’s difficult to have goals this year because she’s entering her new position in the middle of a school year when some students and teachers are at school and others are attending remotely.

“Right now things are so tough with everything that’s been going on this year. One of the nice things about coming in at the middle of the school year is they’ve already got things running and rolling. It’s nice for me because I can kind of see how things are going and help them however I can,” Mrs. LaBarge said.

Despite the challenges associated with COVID, she said teachers and students have adapted well.

“I think there are definitely some positives that come out of this year, I think some very different things that we’ve tried in the schools and had never really done. I see amazing things that the teachers and students are doing. So it’s kind of exciting at the same time because I think there will be things that will come out of it that will make us a lot stronger,” she said.

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