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April 21, 2022


To the Members of the Chester School District Community:


On behalf of the Chester Board of Education I am honored to announce the retirement of the Chester School Superintendent Denis M. Petrilak, and the appointment of Catherine O’Hara as the next Chester Superintendent of Schools effective July 1, 2022. 


Mr. Petrilak is retiring from the Chester School District after a career of 37 years in public education, including serving the last three years as Superintendent of Schools for our School District and serving the previous five years as Principal of Chester Academy.  In his letter to the Board of Education Mr. Petrilak wrote, “I am proud of my contributions towards elevating the academic program in the School District, most recently in the development of a Pre-Kindergarten program, and notably in the area of STEM education…I feel honored to know that I have done my part to leave the District a much better and more humane place of promise and opportunity for the children of the Chester community.”

Our next Superintendent, Catherine O’Hara, is well known in the Chester community.  The 2022-2023 school year will mark Ms. O’Hara’s 20th year in the Chester School District.  First hired as an academic support specialist, she transitioned to classroom teacher, and then held leadership roles as District STEM Coordinator, Elementary School Principal and most recently as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools.  She has demonstrated success in establishing opportunities for input from all District stakeholders and has a proven track record of progressive leadership while supporting inquiry and innovation in student learning.

Prior to her arrival at Chester in 2003, Ms. O’Hara had educational experience in Pre-K, middle school, high school, and special education.  Having also worked in the field of industrial engineering, she brings unique leadership experience and perspective to the District’s vision of engaging students in authentic applications that foster critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.

Ms. O’Hara holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Leadership from SUNY New Paltz, a Master of Education degree from St. Michael’s College and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Management from Clarkson University.  She has represented Chester at annual New York State School Board Association conventions, presenting on STEM education.  Ms. O’Hara will complete the New York State Council of School Superintendents / Leadership for Educational Achievement Foundation Future Superintendents Academy this May.

Ms. O’Hara is looking forward to continuing the welcoming environment of Chester, and engaging students, staff, families and the community in a collaborative partnership of excellence for our students. 

This is a bittersweet announcement for this Board. While we are saddened by the retirement of Mr. Petrilak, who, upon his arrival brought a level of pride and professionalism to the Academy that continues throughout the entire District, the Board is excited for the future under the leadership of Ms. O’Hara. Catherine’s unique background and experience has helped prepare her for this next challenge, and, like Mr. Petrilak and Mr. Michel before her, she will continue to represent this district with the utmost professionalism, while promoting an innovative learning environment.

The Board of Education takes the selection of the Superintendent as one of its most important responsibilities, and with the selection of Ms. O’Hara we know the Chester Union Free School District will move forward in the best possible hands.



Frank Sambets

Frank Sambets, President

Chester UFSD Board of Education