History of TST BOCES

At the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 12,000 individual school districts in New York State. Most were rural, with the powerful big cities offering the widest array of services. The Commissioner of Education, Andrew S. Draper, wisely saw that it was impossible for the State Education Department to monitor and assist that many districts. He persuaded the Legislature to create over 200 new positions, called District Superintendent of Schools. They were stewards of those smaller districts. After World War II, there was a prevailing feeling that New York might move toward forming county unit school districts. The Legislature created the mechanism to manage that trend, if it happened, and call the new structure Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. And rather than create a new superstructure of administration, those Boards (soon to be called BOCES) were assigned to the District Superintendents. This was in 1948.

County units never materialized. Instead, districts merged (e.g., Rush and Henrietta, Jamesville and DeWitt, Interlaken and Ovid). The BOCES provided mostly shared services – driver’s education, guidance, special education, some vocational education. They did this in spaces wherever they could be found – an old International Harvester plant in Genesee County, church basements, carved-out spaces in the component schools. In 1968, the Legislature saw the future and authorized BOCES to bond and build their own facilities. The first was in nearby Auburn. Our Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES began on September 9, 1949, when District Superintendent Craig Donnan called an organizational meeting at the Trumansburg Central School. The first budget was $100, borrowed from the Tompkins Trust Company after the organizers decided it wasn’t wise to accept District Superintendent Donnan’s offer to make it a gift out of his own pocket! (Now, of course, the budget is over $ 40,000,000 annually, and it’s not likely to hear that offer from a District Superintendent ever again!). The T-S-T initial services were typical. There was a shared dental hygienist and a “driver trainer”, and the BOCES was housed on the second floor of a hangar at the airport, owned by Chartair. (Many of the early decisions were made in the bracing atmosphere of fuel fumes!).

The earliest districts in this BOCES were Dryden, Groton, Trumansburg, and Newfield, followed fairly quickly by Interlaken and Ovid and Romulus. Ithaca joined in 1966, Lansing also in the 1960’s, and Candor in the early 1970’s. Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga remains a relatively small BOCES, while other BOCES merged over the years. Irv Henry, former Superintendent in Groton was the visionary leader who moved quickly after the 1968 legislation permitting owned facilities. The voters approved construction in April of 1968, and the campus opened its doors in September of 1970 — then and today one of the more attractive facilities in New York State. The land was purchased from Cornell, the original campus cost $3.5 million dollars, and the dedication was on the 2nd of April, 1971.

Board members Darwin Smith and Jeannette Powell have been honored for their early leadership along with long service District Superintendent Dr. Roy Dexheimer by having buildings dedicated in their names. Early staff leadership included Mike Pronti (special education), Tom Mahoney (vocational education), Harold Miller (business officer), Warren Currier (Continuing Education—with 4,680 enrollees in 220 courses, since there was not a community college at the time), Ed Moy (technology), and Dave Griffith as the Supervisor of Maintenance. District Superintendents over the years have included Craig Donnan, Irv Henry, Ed Witko, Dr. Roy Dexheimer, Dr. Tim O’Neill, Dr. Ellen O’Donnell, and since 2013 Dr. Jeffrey A. Matteson.

After over 60 years of BOCES leadership, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES serves nearly 900 students in BOCES programs, hundreds of adult students and employs over 350 staff. We adapt as noted in our mission and purpose to contemporary shared service needs by our component districts — School Improvement Services, Health and Safety Programs, the Central Business Office, SESIS (Special Education School Improvement Specialist, formerly known as SETRC), Data Analysis, a growing Energy Management Service, expanded summer programs and teacher in-service programs. It’s a long way from a shared dental hygienist and driver trainer! We are proud of our graduates and our skilled and dedicated staff. We are enthusiastic about our partnership with the component schools and their programs. We are motivated by a distinguished past, and excited about the future. That is what our BOCES is all about.