Local BOCES leader to lead colleagues

HUDSON—Dr. Gladys Cruz has plenty of work ahead to meet her goals as president of the state School Superintendents Association next year. In addition to continuing to serve as superintendent of the Questar III BOCES, she plans to determine and meet “the common needs of all superintendents” and to advance the statewide Education 2025 Initiative. In her view, Columbia County is already on the road to success.

As for students, she said in a phone conversation March 24, “We need them to succeed, we need them to make informed choices, we need them to be part of our economy.”

BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Each BOCES district serves a number of constituent school districts by providing shared educational services and programs for the school districts in its region. Examples of these services include education for specific careers and special education.

Questar III BOCES includes 22 school districts, including all six districts in Columbia County, as well as most school districts in Rensselaer County, and several in Greene County.

An advantage of “our BOCES,” as Dr. Cruz refers to Questar III, is that it “really has rural districts, urban districts, poor districts, suburban districts and minority-majority districts. It’s representative of New York state as a whole.”

The local BOCES picked the name Questar III for itself in about 1993, said Dan Sherman, the district’s director of communication: “Quest” for educational quests; “star” for brilliance; “III” for three counties.

Questar gets the majority of its budget from providing programs and services to its component districts, Mr. Sherman said. The districts decide which services to receive and pay for them. Questar also gets some funds (about 12% in 2020-21) from the annual “administrative fee” each component school district pays. And it gets a smaller portion from state and federal grants.

BOCES district superintendents like Dr. Cruz serve as both CEO of their local BOCES and as representatives of the state education commissioner to their component school districts.

This spring the School Superintendents Association (formerly called the American Association of School Administrators or AASA) elected Dr. Cruz to its presidency, which has three stages: a year as president elect, a year as president and a year as past president. In her case, she will begin her president-elect term in July 2022 and will become president from July 2023 through June 2024.

‘One of the beauties of BOCES is that it expands career opportunities for students.’

Superintendent Gladys Cruz, Ph.D.


The Education 2025 Initiative came out of a November 2020 meeting of superintendents and business leaders. It led to a National Commission on Student-Centered Equity-Focussed Education, with Dr. Cruz serving as a commissioner. The commission issued a report with recommendations in April 2021 and set up a Successful Practices Network to lead the implementation of their recommendations. It was this process that became the Education 2025 Initiative.

According to the report, the Initiative’s Vision for Redesign has three Core Components:

1. A Culture that is Whole Learner Focused and Future-Driven, with No Learner Marginalized

2. Social-Emotional and Cognitive Growth—even if it means “overhauling schedules and learning calendars” and defining classes by categories other than age

3. Resources: including technology, family and community, early education and diverse educators.

Overall, says the April 2021 report, the AASA “urges a vision of public schools as future-driven, rigorous, energetic, and culturally vibrant learning ecosystems—where leaders, administrators, teachers, learners, families, and communities work together to redesign the school system, re-engineer instruction, and co-author personalized learning for All learners.” This personalized learning includes closing paths to interests considered obsolete.

Dr. Cruz explained that the initiative is to “ensure the school system addresses the needs of all its students.” She also said that not all students want a traditional high school or college. Some want trade school and not going to college is “more accepted now,” though some parents need to be convinced of that. Some kids want a traditional four years of high school followed by traditional four years of college. But “not every career needs a four-year college degree. One can be successful without college,” she said.

Dr. Cruz said Columbia County schools are already aligning themselves with the Education 2025 Initiative, because they have “future focused” programs that “constantly adapt to the workforce needs.” These programs include career and technical education and two regional high schools: one at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, and Tech Valley High School at the College of Nanoscience and Engineering in Albany. These programs are “hands on,” with business leaders as advisors. In some, students earn an associate degree along with a high school diploma. “One of the beauties of BOCES is that it expands career opportunities for students,” Dr. Cruz said.

Two new Career and Technical Education programs that Dr. Cruz highlighted are Heavy Equipment and Game Development/Multimedia. Heavy Equipment, launched four years ago, is now Questar III’s most popular program and students who finish it are being hired at salaries up to $60,000 and have “no debt. The Game Development program is scheduled to start in September. It’s already full.

Dr. Cruz was born in Puerto Rico and spent her youth both there and in Albany, Mr. Sherman said. She

was a teacher in Puerto Rico and director of curriculum services for the state Education Department among other positions in New York. She joined Questar in 1998 as a bilingual education specialist, and progressed to other posts at the BOCES. In August 2015 she was named district superintendent.

She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and a master’s degree in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology from the State University of New York at Albany. In addition, she holds a master’s degree in Bilingual Education and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and English from La Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico.

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