| Karen Clark has been passionately devoted to her job as director of Alternative Education at OCM BOCES, a division now called Innovative Education. Her 30-year career will wrap up at this end of this month, when Clark will retire and hand the reigns to Chris DiFulvio, who previously worked as principal of the Career & Technical Education program at the Cortlandville Campus.
Clark says she has been “extremely lucky” to have a career she loved. First and foremost, she loved the students who walked through the doors of Cortland Alternative School (CAS), a program that will always hold a special place in her heart. At the outset of her career, Clark helped design and implement the school, which is now part of the Port Watson Street complex. She started in 1985 as a math and science teacher, then expanded her duties to become a program coordinator and eventually a principal.
In 2007, she became the director of Alternative Education. That, too, launched some major projects she loved. When Clark and other administrator leaders observed the cutting-edge concepts of a “New Tech” school in other parts of the country, it inspired them to launch the program at OCM BOCES.
Clark was instrumental in creating, planning and opening Innovation Tech High School in Liverpool in 2014, followed by Seven Valleys New Tech Academy in Cortland in the fall of 2016.
Garnering the grass-roots support of the community and local school superintendents, especially in the Cortland area, was extremely gratifying to Clark.
“Making it work, making it happen — that was incredible,” she said.
Clark also enjoyed being part of instructional change and growth in the classroom, an effort that was especially satisfying when it made a notable impact on student learning. It was always a highlight, she said, to see students walk across the stage at graduation.
Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Colleen Viggiano said Clark was truly instrumental in the growth of Alternative Education/Innovative Education programs over the years.
“Karen has been an amazing leader over the course of her time at OCM BOCES, and the quality of our programs has improved greatly due to her vision and commitment to student success,” Viggiano said.
Clark’s retirement plans are many. She hopes to travel to Florida and Arizona and even make a trek next year to a game preserve in South Africa. She also wants to read, relax, do some kayaking and bird-watching, rekindle a passion for photography and try her hand at landscaping. She also hopes to spend more time with her family, which includes two grown sons, Michael and Joshua, and her husband, Jonathan Orkin.
Clark said she is looking forward to saying “yes” to so many activities she never had time for, but she will miss the students and staff at BOCES.
“It’s been very rewarding,” she said. “I’ve been learning and growing my entire time here.”