Mark Bordeau, SNS SNA Member Since 1993 » Binghamton, New York For those who know Mark Bordeau, it’s likely no surprise to learn he’s been named SNA’s national Director of the Year for 2017. Dedicated to the profession he loves, Bordeau has served in numerous national and state leadership positions, and he recently was elected as vice president of the New York School Nutrition Association (NYSNA). Bordeau’s career has taken him from a small community to leading a large, multi-district program. Here, he shares a few of the signposts and decisions that directed his path. On Challenges Sometimes life takes us on an unexpected journey. It was a very, very difficult decision in 1999 to move my entire family from a rural farm community in upstate New York three hours south to take a new opportunity to operate foodservices for the Binghamton City School District. Adams Center was home, and we lived right next to my wife’s parents. But, when you feel you have a calling for a greater challenge in life… it was difficult, yet exciting, to ask my family to please follow me to a new community. At first, I was only running a single school district, and most of the other districts in Broome-Tioga BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) were being managed rather independently of each other. In Summer 2004, when the director left the neighboring Vestal Central School District, I was asked to temporarily step in. Soon, I found myself running one additional district’s meal program after another, as their individual situations changed. I never thought in a million years I would go from running a single district with about 6,000 students to overseeing 15 districts and over 32,000 students, but the administration was happy and asked me to continue overseeing all of the programs. How did this happen? By developing a mission that the foodservice team, community and all the districts believed in. I try to lead by example, and give the districts a clear vision, with strong values, while working closely with all our community partners. That’s the most rewarding part of my job: knowing we are really making a difference in the lives of our students. On Inspiration I have known Ray Denniston since 1990, when we met at a state conference. At the time, he was director for Johnson City (N.Y.) Central School District and we have been friends since. As a matter of fact, when I first moved to Binghamton, he literally lived across the street! After we made that first connection, it just grew to where we talked on an almost daily basis. He would share ideas and it assisted me in my growth as a director and a person. Most importantly, I learned who Ray was and the difference that he was making with the kids at Johnson City and how heavily involved he was in the community. For years, he would take a busload of kids down to Washington, D.C., and work in a soup kitchen for several days to teach them about poverty. He taught me the importance of having a core mission, vision and values—both professional and personal. That lives with me every day. Ray is retired now, but he works with us part-time. On Achievements With the poverty and hunger that we experience in the Binghamton area, we face some tremendous challenges. In SY 2005-06, each district in the cooperative was doing different menus, but we all felt we needed to create a unified brand and concept to promote healthier meals to address hunger and obesity. The project simply started out with all the districts developing menus together, centralizing the bidding—which also saved money—and creating a dietitian position to work for all the districts in the cooperative. In 2007, we officially launched the “Rock on Café,” a unified menu, marketing and nutrition program that featured one lunch entrée each day, along with a signature salad of the week. Doing taste tests and getting buy-in from the kids, we dramatically and fundamentally changed the menu to include more whole grains, plus fresh fruit and vegetables. We now hear positive stories from across our 15 districts, their individual communities and our community partners, including Food and Health Network of South Central New York, which is working with several districts on a farm to school program. In addition, more than 30 of our schools have earned awards in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge, including seven receiving Gold of Distinction honors. It all started with Rock on Café, which is the pride of my career. On Leadership Success with Rock on Café did not happen overnight. I learned that to talk the talk, I had to walk the walk. I had to go out and sell the concept. It was a year-long process, and it took numerous meetings. There were many, many players who needed to buy into what we were doing. We had to convince 15 boards of education, 15 superintendents, 15 directors and business officials—all of whom could be somewhat territorial. We told them we believed this could be a long-term benefit to the children, as well as having a positive financial impact for the districts. It was not easy for people to essentially give up ownership of their programs, but once they believed in the brand and its benefits, they were on board. The risks of failure were great, but it was well worth the challenges. I see this program as more than an occupation, as part of my journey to make a difference for all the children in our school districts. It is a great feeling to be recognized for fulfilling a personal mission! 30-SECOND BIO CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN Massena, New York EDUCATION Expected to earn a 2018 bachelor degree in Business Administration, Empire State College YEARS IN SCHOOL NUTRITION 27 TITLE Senior Food Service Director EMPLOYER Broome-Tioga BOCES, Endicott, New York PROGRAM AT A GLANCE 15 school districts in the southern tier of New York; 32,500 total enrollment, serving breakfast and lunch SNA LEADERSHIP At-Large Director, SNA Board of Directors; elected NYSNA Vice President in 2017 and will be installed as president in October 2019 FAMILY Wife AnnMaria, children Matthew (27), Brandon (25) and Joseph (16) As told to Doug Scott, contributing editor.
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