When George Merritt was in high school, he never thought that he would become a teacher, principal or even a school superintendent. At the time, his goal was to graduate high school as a certified auto technician and work with his father at their auto repair shop. But little did this teenager know that he would one day become a school superintendent.
“When I was in middle school, I remember once asking my ninth grade English teacher how knowing the difference between a noun, pronoun or verb or an adjective was going to help me. I asked her how this would benefit me when I’m rebuilding the transmission on your car. She tried to challenge me and push me to do more to improve myself,” Merritt said. “She told me that you never know where life will take you. Fast-forward almost 15 years later and my first college course was a non-credit bearing English course where the subject matter was content I should have paid attention to and learned in high school.”
As a junior in high school, Merritt enrolled in the Auto Technology Program at the Mt. Morris Career and Technical Education Center.
Roger Young was the Auto Technology teacher at the Mt. Morris Career and Technical Education Center. I came into his class at a different level than many of the other students because I worked on vehicles at my father’s business. He recognized my skill set and encouraged me to set high, lofty goals. He pushed me to attain at a higher level because he knew that I could,” Merritt said.
Over the next four decades, Merritt’s education and career would lead him to many places and many positions. Following his graduation from Caledonia-Mumford Central Schools in 1980, Merritt worked at a car dealership in Churchville, New York, and also spent time working at his father’s auto repair shop. But after working for almost ten years in this business, he realized that he wanted a different career path. Even though he was married with three children, he decided to go to college. Merritt attended college full-time at both Genesee Community College and SUNY Geneseo. His goal was to teach Career and Technical Education (CTE) and in just over two years, he completed his bachelor’s degree.
“Completing my Bachelor of Science degree in two years and one semester was a proud moment especially while I maintained a 3.75GPA,” Merritt said.
After graduation and receiving his certification, Merritt taught at a number of different CTE Centers around New York state. He was an Auto Technology instructor at Greater Southern Tier BOCES, Edison Career and Technology High School in Rochester, and the Batavia CTE Center.
Joe Galante is a former Genesee Valley BOCES administrator who at one time served as Principal of the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. Galante supervised Merritt when he taught Auto Technology at the Batavia CTE Center.
“George was a tremendous teacher, he was kind and compassionate. But most importantly, his students respected him. George understood the curriculum content and kept his students on task and motivated. He had excellent classroom management skills,” Galante said.
Once he was certified as a CTE instructor, he was required to earn a master’s degree and he decided to pursue a degree in Educational Administration.
“Many of my colleagues encouraged me to pursue a path as a school district administrator,” Merritt explained.
His career as a school district administrator led Merritt to many districts throughout the state where he has served in a variety of positions. Wheatland-Chili Central Schools (CS) Dansville CS, Watertown City Schools, Harrisville CS, Edwards-Knox CS and Alexandria CS are some of the districts where he served as Assistant Principal, School-To-Work Coordinator, Athletic Director, CSE Chairman, Principal and Superintendent of Schools. He currently is the Superintendent of Schools for the Alexandria Central School District located in Alexandria Bay, New York.
Merritt is an advocate of career and technical education not just because he was a CTE student and instructor but for many other reasons.
“No one can ever take knowledge away from you. It doesn’t matter what the program is that you study, these are skills that you can use throughout your life. Career and technical education offers students the opportunity to gain practical skills that can be used in so many ways and most importantly, a career in the trades has great earning potential,” Merritt said.
He encourages any student considering career and technical education to explore this avenue.
“Make it happen, don’t ever let anything or anyone limit you. If you want something, don’t be afraid to go get it,” Merritt said.
Merritt recently retired after a long tenure as a school district administrator and is enjoying his new phase of life!