Former School Superintendent Laura Pless Named Coordinator of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition

Shown are members of the Executive Committee of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition (L-R):  Mike Abbate, Cummins; Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County; Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and MAST; Dr. Laura Pless, Education Coalition Coordinator; Justin Hanft, Dream It Do It Chautauqua County; and Sarah Gilbert, Chautauqua County Health Network.
Shown are members of the Executive Committee of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition (L-R): Mike Abbate, Cummins; Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County; Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and MAST; Dr. Laura Pless, Education Coalition Coordinator; Justin Hanft, Dream It Do It Chautauqua County; and Sarah Gilbert, Chautauqua County Health Network.

Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce

The Chautauqua County Education Coalition is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Laura Pless as its Coordinator. Dr. Pless was most recently Superintendent of Schools at Amherst Central School District and previously served as Superintendent of Schools at Westfield Academy and Central school District. She was formerly a school principal at Westfield and Fredonia Central School District and held several other positions at Fredonia including Director of Student Support Services and Director of Student Activities. She was a special education teacher at the elementary, middle, and high school levels at Fredonia Central and for the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) LoGuidice Center at Fredonia. Dr. Pless was also an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

The mission of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition is to align resources and build capabilities to meet the evolving workforce requirements of the community. With more than 80 stakeholders representing over 60 organizations countywide, the Coalition seeks to develop and implement solutions to meet the evolving workforce requirements in Chautauqua County. Partners in the Coalition include business organizations, educational institutions, community groups, and others.

The Coalition’s goals are to improve educational outcomes, enhance the opportunity for economic growth through retaining and attracting employees, and to develop alignments in learning systems by creating partnerships and sharing resources. The work of the Coalition has centered around four key areas: benchmarking and improving kindergarten readiness, identifying and developing middle school to high school career pathways in the healthcare economy, identifying and developing middle school to high school career pathways in the manufacturing economy, and coordinating and aligning offerings of cohort training for immediate in-demand occupations in the healthcare and manufacturing fields.

Dr. Pless has long had a commitment to collaboration in education and believes that the role of the community is crucial for success.

“The process of positive change requires patience and communication,” she said. “We have witnessed that within the public education system, and we are focused on collaboration with all stakeholders as we seek to develop stronger students and better outcomes for our entire community. I place a great value on work that encompasses all segments of our population and believe in the effectiveness of aligning the work we do with the community we serve.”

The Chautauqua County Education Coalition is funded by a major grant from Cummins, Inc. and is housed with the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce in its Dunkirk office.

“Cummins is excited to see Laura Pless take the position of the Director of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition,” said Cummins General Manager Mike Abbate. “The work of Laura and the Coalition is to seek opportunities to help compliment the efforts of our educators and other community stakeholders to further enable the education system to produce the talent we need to have a strong community and a viable economy. Laura’s education system background will be very helpful to defining opportunities, and aligning the right resources to help make these opportunities a reality.”

Todd Tranum, President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce added, “Lauree has extensive knowledge of the educational system and the region, strong leadership experience, and a proven ability to bring people and organizations together around a common goal. As a strong supporter of the work of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition we look forward to working with and supporting Lauree’s efforts to continue to move the work of the Coalition forward.”

Chautauqua County Education Coalition stakeholders are also pleased with the appointment.

David O’Rourke, District Superintendent for Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES said, “Laura is a proven educational leader in Western New York. Her thoughtful leadership style is perfect for creating partnerships in Chautauqua County. It is a very smart move for the Education Coalition to bring her onboard to help steer the Coalition’s important work.”

Ann Abdella, Executive Director of the Chautauqua County Health Network said, “We are thrilled to welcome Laura Pless aboard. She is joining the organization at the prefect time to boost all of the synergies that the coalition has brought together so far. CCHN is excited to facilitate the expansion of activities related to middle and high school pathways to healthcare careers, especially in light of the recent developments with the medical technology industry, especially the expansion of Athenex into Dunkirk, as well as all of the changes we are undergoing with the modernization of the health care delivery system in New York State.”

“Lauree’s background in public education is invaluable to advancing our work on Kindergarten Readiness,” added Tory Irgang, Executive Director of the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County.

Dr. Pless earned a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy from the State University of New York at Buffalo, a Master of Science in Special Education from the State University of New York at Albany, and a Bachelor of Science in Education from the State University of New York at Fredonia.

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