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Ontario ARC was ready for a leadership transition two years ago, but Ann Scheetz was not.
The longtime associate executive director of community services at Ontario ARC, Scheetz was the organization's pick to take over for Bill Castiglione as executive director.
Castiglione had planned on retiring two years ago, but Scheetz still had her youngest daughter in high school and wanted to devote the time to her family.
So Ontario ARC started a search process for a new leader, but Scheetz made a proposal to Castiglione: Wait two years and she would take over then. After two years of building contacts and learning the position, Scheetz is taking over this month as executive director of Ontario ARC as Castiglione steps down.
Ontario ARC employs some 482 workers and ranked 44th on the Rochester Business Journal's most recent list of private-sector employers. Officially known as NYSARC Inc. Ontario County Chapter, the non-profit organization includes Finger Lakes Bus Service and reported $23.5 million in total revenue for 2010.
The two-year delay was a fruitful time in which Castiglione helped make her transition as easy as possible, Scheetz said.
"Bill had a lot of public contacts that I don't have, so for the past two years he's been introducing me to people and helping me build up my contacts," Scheetz said.
Scheetz also was able to assemble her management team during this time, a mixture of people from within the agency and outside it.
She has gained a strong knowledge of state and federal regulations, Ontario ARC officials noted, and this knowledge has helped shape high-quality programs for about 1,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Ontario County.
"We treat people with dignity and respect," Castiglione said this week when Scheetz was announced as executive director. "It's part of our culture-and a tradition that will continue under the leadership of Ann Scheetz. She has a long history with the agency and is going to be a phenomenal executive director."
Scheetz started with the organization in 1984 and has worked in several different areas within the non-profit organization. Her background now includes experience in all of the agency's core areas-day programs, employment services, family support, teen-to-teen transition and residential and service coordination.
Her experience in services for people with developmental disabilities extends beyond Ontario ARC. Scheetz serves on the boards of the Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board and NYSARC Inc.'s Collaborative of the Finger Lakes and is a member of the Executive Directors Association of NYSARC.
Scheetz recognizes funding challenges for Ontario ARC and all non-profit organizations within its sector. To thrive, the agency must be able to accentuate its unique aspects, she said.
"We're absolutely going to have less money, so with that in mind I don't think we can continue doing business the same way," she said. "We're going to have to be talking about the agency and letting people know the wonderful things we do.
"You can't just keep doing the same programs that everyone else is doing; you need to distinguish yourself."
Scheetz said she already has some plans for the organization. She is starting a foundation for Ontario ARC and talking with potential donors in an effort to widen the organization's donor base.
Scheetz also plans to bring Project Search, which is already being used in Monroe County, to Ontario ARC. It is a one-year high school transition program for students 18 to 21 with disabilities, providing training and education with the goal of finding competitive employment.
Reflecting the difficult funding landscape, future projects will likely have a larger scale, Scheetz said. The organization is looking at expanding its autism center, turning it into a regional facility that draws resources from throughout the area.
"We would be the base but gather all of the best of the best of the region and offer that support to parents," Scheetz said. "And of course we're looking at partnering with community agencies to survive with this shrinking fiscal environment."
Though the organization will be operating with shrinking resources, Scheetz said she refuses to let that dictate the organization's future.
"There are lots of people out there citing doom and gloom," she said. "We're not going to approach it like that. We're going to focus on how Ontario ARC is innovative and forward-thinking. The situation doesn't really affect the way we're going to treat people or our values. We still put people with disabilities first and always will."
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