Hall of Fame Class of 2020
Doris Bedell is a life-long resident of Albany and Albany High School alumna, Class of 1956. After graduating from The College of Saint Rose with a BS and MS in Elementary Education, her 35 year career with the district began at PS#6 in Arbor Hill. After eight years in the classroom, Bedell served as Project Coordinator for Albany’s Urban Education Program - a statewide initiative that addressed the needs of disadvantaged students and aimed to close the achievement gap. She then went on to serve concurrently as the principal of both PS#5 and PS#7, also in Arbor Hill, until she was named Director of Education at the school now known as Arbor Hill Elementary (a building she also helped to design). From Arbor Hill Elementary, Bedell was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of Elementary Education at the district level. She retired in 1995 and remains active with City Club of Albany, Historic Cherry Hill, Council of Community Services and Albany Metropolitan Outreach Services.
Tracie Killar is a member of the Albany High School Class of 1981. After attending the University at Albany and graduating from The College of Saint Rose, she worked for Albany nonprofits her entire career. In 2015, Killar opened the South End Children’s Cafe (SECC) - a program that has evolved from free meals for families to a full-fledged afterschool program that includes tutoring and extracurricular activities. Under Killar’s direction, SECC has served more than 42,000 free meals and during the COVID-19 pandemic worked to provide families with groceries and necessary household items. Killar often puts in 80 hour weeks and does not take a salary for her work - which she says isn’t work at all, but a “passion.” Killar currently calls Pine Hills home.
Onnolee Smith is the immediate past president of the Albany Fund for Education - a charitable organization that raises money for innovative programs in support of the City School District of Albany. Smith is the mother of two Albany High School graduates, and while most parents drift from involvement once their youngest child leaves a school, she remained not just involved but continued to be a supporter, cheerleader and active fundraiser in support of the district. Smith was an original member of the grassroots community advocacy group People Advocating for Small Schools (PASS), which strongly supported the district's vision for a complete rebuild and renovation of its elementary and middle schools during the 2000s. She has been a board member of the Albany Fund for Education since 2002, and served as president from 2008-18. Under her leadership, the organization has helped to raise more than $200,000 for public school students in Albany. Smith currently calls the New Scotland Avenue neighborhood home.
Theresa Swidorski’s advocacy for City School District of Albany students has spanned more than three decades. Her volunteer work began in 1988, helping to run campaigns for progressive school board candidates. In that year, Swidorski also helped to establish Albany Citizens for Education (ACE), which organized public forums for residents to discuss and learn more about important issues in the district. One year later she formed the Citizens of Albany for Responsible Education (CARE) - a political organization focused on public education. Swidorski ran for a seat on the board of education and was sworn in in 1990, serving as president for two terms. Highlights from Swidorski’s twelve years on the board include the development and passage of the $185-million bond initiative in 2001 that renovated every elementary and middle school in the district and the creation of the magnet school programs. Swidorski continued her advocacy by becoming a board member of the Albany Fund for Education and is the current vice president of the nonprofit organization that raises funds for district schools. Swidorski currently calls the Helderberg neighborhood home.
Theresa Vaughan has been an outstanding contributor to the City School District of Albany for decades - both as a parent-activist and as a fundraiser. Her two sons are Albany High School alumni. In 1998, Vaughan became the founding member of the Albany Fund for Education - a charitable organization that raises money for innovative programs in support of the City School District of Albany. Vaughan is responsible for dozens of new ideas and funding mechanisms that have helped students to learn, grow and succeed over the years. They include, but are not limited to: scholarships, mentoring, college visits, free musical instruments for students who cannot buy or rent one, “Coach as Mentor” programming and bringing students closer to nature via gardening, tree planting and field trips. Vaughan currently calls the Winchester Gables neighborhood home.
Kimberly Wilkins’ career in the City School District of Albany spans 27 years. She graduated from Regents College, the University at Albany and Sage Graduate School and her first job in the district was a social studies teacher at Albany High School. Wilkins was promoted to assistant principal at the former Philip Livingston Middle School in 1996 and then became principal at Pine Hills Elementary School in 2000. When Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School first opened its doors in 2005, she became the founding principal. In 2016, Wilkins was named interim superintendent, a role she held until moving on to share her expansive education expertise to students across New York State and taking an administrative position with the New York State Education Department - first as Assistant Commissioner for Innovation and School Reform and currently Deputy Commissioner for P12 Instructional Support. Wilkins has volunteered with the Albany District Links, Parson’s Family and Child Center, Albany Junior League and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She currently calls the Buckingham Lake neighborhood home.