Meet James Froio

By Helen Edelman, manager, Exchange

October 5, 2012

James FroioLast year, the Jordan-Elbridge (N.Y.) school district was ripped apart by an upheaval marked by suspensions, firings and lawsuits.

The shake-up spurred a grass-roots citizen uprising, lots of bad publicity for the district and a series of lawsuits.

So, why would someone want to step in and lead a district in such turmoil?

James Froio (at left) -- a 1998 graduate of SUNY Empire State College with a master's degree in social policy from the School for Graduate Studies -- has no reservations.

The former Cicero-North Syracuse High School executive principal -- who has served in the past both as a social studies teacher and an administrator in large and small districts -- knew the job would be a challenge, maybe even a little daunting for the first year or so. But he’s determined to do the best job he can to bring some normalcy back to Jordan-Elbridge. Froio met early on with teachers, administrators and community members in his new school district.

“It is a tough situation,” he said. “You could do a thesis study on the impact of trust. It’s at the cornerstone of everything that’s gone on. I hear the same thing from every group I talk to. They just don’t know who to trust. There’s no sense of faith in anything. That’s definitely where I had to start.”

Froio describes himself as a “fixer,” but knows the most important thing he can do right now is step back and let people talk.

“It’s clear to me people just do not feel they have been heard at all or if they have been heard, their opinion hasn’t been valued,” he said.

Froio, who earns $140,000 a year plus benefits, plans to continue the conversations in public listening sessions. He also intends to be a consistent visible presence, available to talk to teachers and administration about their issues.

Although Jordan-Elbridge has struggled through challenging times, Froio said it’s nothing compared to what he faced losing his 6-year-old daughter to cancer in 2007. But the lessons he learned — live your life to the fullest, handle things as they come and make the best of it just like his daughter did — have shaped the way Froio lives his life and tackles obstacles.

Froio said, “Sometimes bad things happen and they’re not anyone’s fault, but they need to own up to it and say, look, it’s happened and this is what we’re doing. The district didn’t get into this position overnight and it’s not going to get out of it overnight either. But I’m very confident they are going to get out of it.”