By Chris Chamars | Photo by Ty Kretser
Issue: October 2022
Chazy Central Rural School is small — 460 students small. However, its size is an unfair indicator of its capabilities. Step onto the campus and the small school feels larger than life. I sat down with Superintendent Scott Osborne recently to learn more about what makes CCRS special.
Osborne was born and raised in Plattsburgh, but has always had a special connection to Chazy. His father worked at the small independent telephone company across the street from the school for 40 years and Osborne started his career at CCRS 25 years ago as a substitute teacher. He became the interim superintendent and junior/senior high school principal in 2019 and a year later he was appointed as the superintendent of the $12.5 million operation and principal for grades 7-12. Becoming a Chazy Eagle was a full-circle moment.
“We are the smallest school in Clinton County,” Osborne explained. “We’re half the size of some high schools alone. On average class sizes here can range from 15-22 students. It’s an educational unicorn and it feels like family. It’s all about community.” CCRS was founded in 1915 by William H. and Alice T. Miner and Reverend George Mott. The Reverend focused on creating the curriculum while the Miners provided the financial support to build the school. Once built, it became the centerpiece of the community. The original building was abandoned in the mid-1960s when it was deemed too expensive to maintain. CCRS moved into its current building in 1968.
The Miner’s impact can be felt to this day through the William H. Miner Foundation, one of three legs of the financial triangle that support CCRS. The Miner Foundation, a.k.a. The Legacy Foundation, is a 501(c)3 with the sole purpose of supporting CCRS. Representatives on behalf of the estate visit each year to check in on the state of the school and provide guidance as needed.
The second leg is public funding. Since CCRS is a New York State public school, it receives federal and state aid, in addition to the taxes collected from the local community. In return, the community elects seven members to a board of education that oversees the use of the funds. The CCRS Education Foundation makes up the third leg. Created by a group of alumni spanning three decades, the foundation gives out mini-grants for new technology and adaptive learning twice a year. Items covered can be as diverse as tables with dry-erase tops, standing desks, alternative seating, and germs to study in the lab.
The three tiers of support allow CCRS to keep its doors open, but it is a sense of community that keeps the students coming and that is created by the teachers, staff and leaders.
While Chazy Central Rural School is facing the same hiring challenges as other schools, there is an incredible level of stability and consistency. From the teachers to leadership and the school board, each group has members with over a decade of experience. The institutional knowledge creates consistency, stability, agility, and understanding. The student-first mentality started by the Miners and Mott has been passed down and has now become part of its culture. When I asked Osborne how he manages everything he quickly responded, “It’s very simple. The kids are here.”
The school is well known for its high achievements in both academics and athletics, often ranking number one or two in the region, but Osborne was quick to say test scores are just one part of the whole picture of success. The goal is to foster graduates who will contribute positively to their communities.
CCRS prefer to use attendance to measure its success. “We tend to have a very high percentage of attendance which means our students are in school and that’s the job. Number one, you have to be here.” Osborne credits the teachers and staff for the high attendance.
The teachers are skilled at delivering core concepts in short spurts, often using activities to keep students engaged and the student-first culture creates a space where everyone feels welcome.
Every morning almost 500 voices create the melody that starts the day. Students and parents are greeted by teachers and staff, excited to see familiar faces. All the adults know the names of the students. Chances are the elementary school principal went to school with some of the parents. These are personal relationships. “That’s probably the best sense of community I could give you. Stand in the lobby at 8:05 am and see how happy people are.”
It is this sense of community that creates opportunities to support students in personal ways. “It doesn’t matter if your older brother or sister went through here, this is your experience. We’re not going to judge you on that sibling’s experience. You are unique and we want to meet you where you are. That’s what we do,” Osborne emphasized.
That philosophy is true both in and outside of the school walls. CCRS offers an expansive number of extracurricular activities — opportunities to belong. Its Model UN was recently awarded the best small school delegation in the world and their boys’ and girls’ soccer teams are competitive locally, regionally and on the state level, having won state championships, with nine and three respectively. The boys’ team currently holds the state record for championships, and Coach Rob McAuliffe recently logged his 500th career coaching victory.
Osborne credited the extraordinarily dedicated and consistent staff, community and financial support for the achievements. “Everyone comes together to move the boat forward. It is all these pieces that create the might of Chazy Central Rural School. We really try to keep the opportunities to engage kids alive and well because that’s what community is — the sum of all the experiences you have along the way.”
Throughout our conversation Osborne showed his pride and appreciation for the school and community. “I’m fortunate to have joined CCRS as a seasoned educator. My experiences in public education thus far allow me to enjoy and appreciate the good work here, the values of the community and the dedication that so many show the school. “We have some things here that are distinctive and unique to our school and that’s the way we like it. I’m lucky. I didn’t create any of this. I just happen to be the custodian of it right now and it’s an honor.”
CCRS joins a family of institutions established by the Miners, including The William H. Miner Research Institute and the Alice T. Miner Museum both in Chazy and the Alice T. Miner Women & Children’s Center at the University of Vermont CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh. The Miners left the North Country a living memorial to the values they worked hard to instill in their community.
Chazy Central Rural School
609 Miner Farm Road
Chazy, NY 12921