The following article, ‘Five local schools named ‘Schools of Distinction’ appeared in the Plattsburgh Press Republican on September 5, 2019

PLATTSBURGH — As districts around the North Country reopen their doors to students this week, five area schools start off the new academic year with a pat on the back for helping their students become college- and career-ready.

On Aug. 20, College for Every Student (CFES) Brilliant Pathways announced Plattsburgh High School, Willsboro Central School, Crown Point Central School, AuSable Valley Middle School and Keeseville Elementary School as “Schools of Distinction” for “the implementation of programs using the CFES core practices of Essential Skills, Mentoring, and Pathways to College and Career,” according to a press release.

“The innovative plans implemented by these schools are proven models for success that schools across the country can emulate,” CFES Brilliant Pathways President and CEO Rick Dalton said in a statement.

“They have managed to create a culture of college and career readiness while equipping students with the Essential Skills they need to succeed in the 21st-century workforce.”

According to the CFES website, “Essential Skills” are goal setting, teamwork, leadership, agility, perseverance and networking.


Schools of Distinction must meet certain criteria in four different rubics, CFES Brilliant Pathways Director of Advancement and Communications Jonathan Reidel said.

The rubics cover such topics as student mentorship, students’ knowledge of the college application process, student visits to colleges and attendance at workshops, and development of the Essential Skills.

The five local schools join 23 others in Hawaii, New York, Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, Georgia and Ireland who earned the designation, Reidel said.


Crown Point is the first North Country school to receive the award 10 years in a row, joining Cloonan Middle School in Stamford, Ct., and Sanford B. Dole Middle School in Honolulu, the press release said.

Reidel said the school has implemented a variety of mentoring programs, such as “Mentoring Madness,” when mentors from Middlebury College spent the day with elementary scholars, in January.

As part of the school’s “Panther Mentors” program, all scholars in grades Pre-K through 12 meet with their “Panther Mentor” for 40 minutes monthly to talk about dealing with difference, bullying, community service and other topics.

And senior English students mentor freshman to help them make professional job resumes.

“The students and staff at Crown Point Central School are thrilled to be chosen for the 10th consecutive year as a CFES School of Distinction,” English teacher Rachael LeClaire-Charron said in a statement.

LeClaire-Charoon serves as the school’s CFES liaison.

“CFES and its core practices have become such an integral part of our day-to-day and have helped drive many of our programs, including our school-wide mentoring program, our annual College and Career Fair and our community outreach initiative.

“Our partnership with CFES has helped to foster college and career readiness in our students beginning in pre-kindergarten and carrying through to our 12th-grade scholars.”


Willsboro Central’s initiatives included a college awareness week; a peer mentoring program for sixth-graders transitioning to seventh-grade; and a “Dress for Success” day, where students donned the attire of professionals they aspire to be, Reidel said.

The school also welcomed guest speakers from CV-TEC and Coryer Staffing, and sent students to the Health Career Fair at University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and Aviation Day at Southwest Airlines.

Keeseville Elementary implemented a mentoring program that brought together sixth-graders with younger students to play board games and talk about school.

The scholars also developed an anti-bullying video which won first place in the region; participated in the Principal’s Challenge to help others and promote diversity; and fundraised for a variety of causes, including the American Cancer Society, the AuSable Valley Central School Art Program, North Country Honor flight, Christmas baskets for Keeseville families and two $500 scholarships for graduating seniors, Reidel said.

Additionally, Keeseville scholars visited local colleges and CV-TEC to learn about college life and the different career avenues available.


AuSable Valley Middle School launched a summer school program that incorporated community service and college visits, and held a parent night farm-to-table barbecue that included information about nutrition, STEM in college, and mental health services.

“School leaders are building a Makerspace where students can design and build products using a new laser engraver, 3-D printer, robotics kits, drawing tablets, and green screen video-editing technology,” the press release said.

“We are very proud of what we have accomplished with the help of CFES and the federal GEAR UP Grant that CFES has secured for North Country schools,” former Middle School Principal Chris Fey, who is now principal at AuSable Valley High School, said in a statement.

“Together with CFES we have explored many college pathways with students by bringing in outside experts in fields like aviation, education, and coaching.”

CFES scholars at Plattsburgh High School each visited at least two college campuses and are set to visit multiple campuses prior to senior year.

“Plattsburgh also hosted an annual college and career awareness fair with 36 colleges and universities participating,” the press release said.

“Scholars also completed a career exploration project and participated in the Medical Profession Overview program sponsored by CFES.”