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Mar 24, 2018
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District NEWS

separating rule

August 23, 2013
Reorganization of district administrators nearly complete

Maryellen Symer promoted to BH-BL assistant superintendent, Kate Gurley to head English Dept.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake high school principal Maryellen Symer will be splitting her time between the high school and the district offices for the next few weeks.

Superintendent Patrick McGrath announced this week that Symer has been chosen as the district's new interim assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, replacing Dr. Richard Evans, who has now moved to his new position as principal of the Stevens elementary school.

"Maryellen and I agree that her immediate priority is to focus on the high school and ensure that the opening of the high school goes smoothly in September," says McGrath, "but I am also excited to know that we will soon be able to tap into her knowledge and expertise here at the district offices."

Symer has 20 years of experience at BH-BL, having first been hired as a teacher and the academic department head for Business, Technology, and Family and Consumer Sciences in 1993. She was promoted to high school principal in 2005.

"Maryellen has won the respect of staff, parents and students in her leadership of the high school," says McGrath. "She has fostered a strong culture of shared leadership there, along with an abiding focus on making connections with each and every student to ensure all students can be successful," says McGrath. "The interview committee was impressed with her poise and breadth of knowledge, and I know she will be a leader who will not only maintain but also increase the district's instructional strengths."

Opportunities and challenges

At BH-BL the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction is heavily involved in the hiring and review of instructional staff and is responsible for working with the district's five school principals, eight academic department heads, and others to oversee all aspects of the instructional program.

Symer knows that there will be plenty of challenges in her new job and is determined to maintain BH-BL's position as one of the highest performing districts in the Greater Capital Region.

"A major focus for me is to work with building principals, K-12 department heads, and teachers to continue implementing the Common Core curriculum," she says. "Our recent test results set a new benchmark for the district, and I'm confident we can do better as we and the rest of the state become more familiar with this new and challenging curriculum designed to better prepare our students for college and careers. We have work to do and will come together to continue BH-BL's long-standing tradition of academic excellence."

The position of interim high school principal has been posted on and McGrath expects to be able to start the process of interviewing candidates to be Symer's replacement by the middle of September.

Gurley to head English Language Arts

The district has tapped another experienced internal staff member to fill a vacancy in the position of K-12 English Language Arts department head. Kate Gurley, who came to BH-BL as an elementary teacher in 1989, will step into the vacancy created last winter by the retirement of former English head Lori Maloney.

Gurley will continue as the district's professional development educator, a position she has held since 2008, but will now spend the majority of her time as head of the English department as well.

"The recent changes in the state tests for grades 3 through 8 plus the upcoming change in the 11th grade English Regents present our teachers with opportunities to better align the BH-BL curriculum to the Common Core and to review and revise our instructional strategies," she says. "These are areas where we can make a big difference in student learning and in students' ultimate success."

McGrath notes that "The skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking in English are foundational to our students' success in all subjects and in all walks of life. I am very pleased that in Kate we have found someone who is not only an excellent trainer of teachers herself but also someone with the abilities to lead this diverse and essential department."