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NCCC Executive Director Collene D. Alexander resigns

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Collene D. Alexander resigned Tuesday as executive director of the North Country Children’s Clinic, just three months after she started the job.

In a news release issued Tuesday, the clinic board said it “expressed its appreciation to Mrs. Alexander for her assistance in moving the organization into its new role as a federally qualified health center.” The release didn’t cite a reason for her departure.

“Leadership development and quality improvement has been a passion of mine for a long, long time,” Mrs. Alexander said. “This extra time will allow me to pursue more opportunities in those areas.“

Mrs. Alexander, who declined to elaborate further on the reasons for her departure, said she was “very grateful” to Paul A. Kraeger, the Children’s Clinic board president, who has taken a leave of absence to recover from a bike injury.

“I am very grateful to Paul Kraeger for having faith in me,” she said. “I thank him very much for giving me this wonderful learning opportunity. That’s how I see these three months.”

In order to carry the board through its new federal status, it has enlisted agency co-founder Janice L. Charles as interim executive director, effective Oct. 16.

“I’m more sad than surprised,” Mrs. Charles said of the news, when reached at her winter home in Florida. “Three months is not very long. It’s sad because it’s tough for people who are there. With changes, it’s difficult.”

Mrs. Charles — who retired from the clinic in June 2009 — said she was called Tuesday by acting board President Margaret Sorensen, who asked if she’d be willing to come back to temporarily oversee the clinic.

Watching the Children’s Clinic become a federally qualified health center is something Mrs. Charles said she’s dreamed of.

“While I was there, I wanted it to become a community health center,” she said. “It was in our business plan, and thanks to Aileen Martin we got that grant. This will be very exciting for me.”

In June, the clinic announced that it received a $650,000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant that will fund expansion of clinic operations, including the opening of a family clinic in Lewis County.

While happy to help in the interim, Mrs. Charles said, she does not plan on becoming the clinic’s permanent executive director again.

“I’m here to help move staff ahead,” she said. “I hope within six months they’ll have a replacement. I helped build the North Country Children’s Clinic and I want it to be successful.”

Mrs. Charles, already familiar with community health centers, said she’ll take on this new challenge and embrace it.

“My passion for children’s health care hasn’t died,” she said. “I’ll have a learning curve there, I’m sure.”

Mrs. Alexander replaced replace Aileen G. Martin, who resigned June 30.

Mrs. Alexander is CEO of Family Counseling Service of Northern New York. She began that role in February 2010 and has been credited with organizing annual fundraisers and being successful in grant applications to further enhance client services. She spent 80 percent of her time at the Children’s Clinic and 20 percent at Family Counseling Service.

“My board has just been notified and hasn’t decided where to go from here,” Family Counseling Service board President Eugene J. Langone Jr. said Tuesday.

When asked by a Times reporter if Mrs. Alexander would go back to Family Counseling Service full time, he said, “I don’t know, at this point. It’s very new to me.”

Mrs. Alexander said that she hadn’t resigned from Family Counseling Service, and that her future role there would be determined by the board.

Before she joined the North Country Children’s Clinic and Family Counseling Service, Mrs. Alexander was Carthage Area Hospital’s administrator for quality and strategic growth from December 2008 to April 2009 and was community development specialist for the Rural Health Care Alliance from December 2005 to December 2008. She also served as director of Rural Health Network of Oswego County from August 2001 to December 2005, and has held other jobs with various agencies since 1981.

Meanwhile, the Children’s Clinic board announced in its Tuesday news release that the search for a new executive director will begin immediately.

Mrs. Alexander wished her former employer the best.

“The Children’s Clinic has been in existence for over 40 years,” she said. “They’ll be fine without me. They’re very capable and competent individuals.”

Times staff writer Brian Amaral contributed to this report.

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