Ron Sodoma, influential Albion school superintendent, dies

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 April 2015 at 12:00 am

District named elementary school in honor of school leader

Ron Sodoma is pictured last May when he attended the Albion Honors Convocation Dinner.

ALBION – Ron Sodoma, a retired Albion Central School superintendent who fostered character education and service learning programs, while pushing for campus upgrades and solid financial footing for the district, has died.

Mr. Sodoma was fighting cancer and was in hospice care. He was living in Green Castle, Pa., with his wife Karen, a retired Albion teacher. They raised their daughters, Amanda and Becky, in Albion.

Sodoma had a 35-year career at Albion. He started as an elementary school teacher, became principal of the Waterport school, then assistant superintendent and the last 18 ½ years as superintendent.

He retired in December 2002. About two years later there was a ceremony, naming the elementary school in his honor. He said then the district’s success and its commitment to every child is a team effort.

“His heart was here,” said Michael Bonafede, the former Board of Education president who served closely with Sodoma and his successor, Dr. Ada Grabowski. “He believed in the community, the children and a well-rounded education.”

Sodoma may have moved away, but he contributed to community causes, including the capital campaigns for the new Hoag Library and Hospice residence in Albion.

He and his wife were back last May to attend the Honors Convocation for graduating Albion seniors.

While Sodoma was superintendent, the district implemented a character education program, service learning initiatives and also an alternative high school program at the Orleans County Nursing Home – efforts that won the district national awards and remain a part of the school today.

“He was instrumental in developing the culture at the district,” Bonafede said. “He had a pure heart, with good intentions and children were first.”

Sodoma was skilled with planning and the district’s financials. For many years Albion had one of the lowest per pupil costs in the state. The district maintained that low rate while preserving reserve funds and tackling needed campus renovations and improvements.

The district’s sound fiscal shape, the care of its campus and its committed staff attracted Michael Bonnewell to the job about five years ago when Grabowski retired, following Sodoma.

“From my point of view when I was applying this was an attractive place to be,” Bonnewell said. “The finances were incredibly well managed and that goes back a long ways.”

Sodoma’s legacy lives on at the school with the many teachers, administrators and staff he hired that continue to serve the district, Bonnewell said.

Richard Pucher also served as a local superintendent for 18 ½ years. He led the Lyndonville district and retired just before Sodoma. The two were often on the phone each week.

“He was willing to help his fellow superintendents,” Pucher said.

Sodoma could have gone to bigger districts and more lucrative salaries, but he was committed to Albion for the long haul, Pucher said.

“He was always interested in impacting his district, helping educators and bettering young people,” Pucher said.

He saw Sodoma as a skilled planner, looking years into the future and making the needed incremental changes to reach the goal.

Jason Smith, the current Lyndonville superintendent, was a high school social studies teacher when Sodoma encouraged him to pursue administration, first as dean of students and then as a vice principal in Albion. Smith would work as a principal in Elba before being hired as Lyndonville superintendent.

He remembers his first day at Lyndonville. There were flowers from Sodoma, with a card, “Call me if you need anything.”

Many teachers hired by Sodoma would go on to be superintendents, a legacy that includes Jeff Evoy in Medina, Roger Klatt in Barker and Roy-Hart, and Mickey Edwards in Wyoming. In addition, Carol D’Agostino is Kendall’s high school principal and Matt Calderon, a former Albion vice principal, is Pembroke’s district superintendent.

“His superintendent’s tree is quite large,” Smith said. “He encouraged a lot of people.”