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Herkimer BOCES board member
selected as NYSSBA president-elect

Nov. 17, 2017

William Miller
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Board of Education member and New York State School Board Association President-Elect William Miller.

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Board of Education member William Miller was recently elected as president of the New York State School Boards Association.

Miller, who officially becomes NYSSBA president Jan. 1, said every president has a theme that the president’s goals are based around, and his is: “Every child does matter.”

Providing all students an opportunity for education has long been important to him, and having two grandchildren with autism adds to the personal significance of the theme.

“I’ve always thought that our elected officials feel that our school districts and kids are all the same,” he said. “They’re not cookie-cutter. Every child learns differently. So I look at how can we make that clear to everybody and make sure every child feels that ‘they care about me.’”

Miller was elected during NYSSBA’s 98th annual Convention and Education Expo, which took place from Oct. 12-14 in Lake Placid. Miller was already first vice president and Area 5 director for NYSSBA – representing school districts in Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties for Area 5.

Only members of the NYSSBA Board of Directors are eligible to run for president, and Miller submitted that he wanted to be considered for the president position, and he was chosen.

His term is for one-year, and he is eligible to run for a second year as president next year. After the two years, he would automatically become NYSSBA’s immediate past president for two years.

It was satisfying to know that the NYSSBA Board of Directors has the confidence in him to be the NYSSBA president, he said.

“You could say it meant a lot to me,” he said.

‘To be a part of it’

Miller and Julie, his wife of 46 years, have lived in West Winfield for more than 30 years. They have three grown children – a son and two daughters – who all went through Mount Markham, as well as a son-in-law and daughter-in-law. They have two grandsons and one granddaughter. Miller works as a purchasing agent at Hi-Speed, a division of Mettler-Toledo.

When he first got involved with school boards, becoming NYSSBA president was far from his mind. Like most school board members just starting out, he saw something at Mount Markham that he didn’t like and thought there was a better way to do it.

“Everybody gets on because they want to change something in their district,” he said.

Becoming a board member gives you a different perspective because you realize you are just one board member out of a group, that there are legal reasons you can’t do certain things and you figure out what school boards can and can’t do, he said.

He started going to two or three NYSSBA workshops per year to learn more about what board members are able to do and what their limitations are.

“It made me want to stay on longer because I really have a passion for what school districts go through, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.

Miller served on the Mount Markham Board of Education from 1993 to 2005 – including six years as president – and has served on the Herkimer BOCES Board of Education since 2002 – including three years as president. He has represented the Owen D. Young and Little Falls school districts on the BOCES board.

He has served on the NYSSBA Board of Directors for more than a dozen years, and he has been a Federal Relations Network and State Legislative Network representative for Area 5 for several years.

Miller also is a member of the Oneida-Madison-Herkimer School Boards Institute and won a Distinguished Service Award from the institute.

Over time, becoming NYSSBA president started to be something he wanted to do.

“You start thinking about it as you go through various committees,” he said. “Then you start thinking about – I’d like to get in a position of leadership.”

‘A major voice’

NYSSBA provides member school boards with many services such as workshops, access to talk to attorneys, webinars and lobbying in Albany and Washington, D.C.

“There are a lot of things that we do as an association for them that they probably couldn’t do on their own,” Miller said.

Custom workshops are available, and there are workshops for new board members.

“It basically helps them get up to speed on what’s going on with school boards in the state,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to see what NYSSBA does for them.”

Some government initiatives that have passed have stemmed in part from ideas that NYSSBA has pushed for, Miller said.

“Every board should belong because we offer all the training and the lobbying effect,” he said. “We have a major voice.”

School districts can submit proposed resolutions about topics affecting their districts, and the NYSSBA Board of Directors reviews its resolutions in December. The goals are then presented to NYSSBA’s executive director and governmental relations people, who conduct lobbying and attend meetings.

If several members of one school board walk into a meeting in Albany, that could have an impact. But if people representing schools from across the state walk into the same meeting, you can make a bigger impression “when you’re speaking with one voice,” Miller said.

“There is something to be said about numbers,” he said.

Another aspect of his “every child does matter” theme that Miller plans to push for deals with alternative pathways for graduation such as career and technical education diplomas through BOCES programs.
Some students are more suited for careers such as being carpenters, mechanics, electricians or plumbers instead of going to college, he said.

“Those are the kids that seem to get lost in the shuffle in school districts a lot of times,” he said. “BOCES offers these programs and integrates them with the other subjects they have to learn to graduate. You have to think of all the students, and you have to think that for these other students, there are ways to help them become productive members of our society.”

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