Because my position of assistant superintendent is newly created and it’s one that had only a week’s worth of discussion at the BOE, there has been some subsequent discussion in the community about it. While many have been congratulatory, I can’t ignore the concerns of some of my neighbors. In my experience, any time a district decides to spend money on an administrative position, taxpayers and personnel have the right to question why it is needed.
I understand this and asked our BOE about this very thing during our discussions. After all, I am a significant taxpayer in our district as well, both through our own home and through our rental property and my husband’s business. I pay attention to the way we spend the district’s money as much as anyone in our community.
I’ve seriously thought about trying to do both jobs, assistant superintendent and high school principal. If I wasn’t already working at least a ten hour day, and a couple of times per week, a 12-14 hour day, I would consider it. It’s honestly that I just can’t possibly imagine giving serious attention to K-12 instructional improvement while managing the day to day business of the high school. If I could, I would.
I also understand clearly that this position is designed as a direct intervention to our improving, but still poor, results in student achievement and in ranking on Business First. I understand that it will be my primary responsibility to do something significant about student achievement gains, to research and then design an improvement plan to move our district forward, thus benefiting every student.
Answering “why do we need an assistant superintendent?” leads me to do the same kind of research and comparison that we do in every other instance, what are other districts doing in regard to leadership designed to focus on instructional improvement? What, specifically, are those districts that we look to on every other measure doing better than we are in dedicating staff? Do they have someone in a similar position to the one created at Gowanda?
In Silver Creek, David O’Rourke leads through the Office of Instruction and Technology. While David does not possess the title of assistant superintendent, he functions as an assistant superintendent does.
In Iroquois, Robin Zymroz leads as an assistant superintendent and another administrator is responsible for instruction, student services, and assessment.
In Lakeshore, they’ve had an assistant superintendent for instruction for many years and in Akron, Sue Kovic is an instructional leader as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. I’m not even mentioning all of our neighbors to the north who have these administrative positions and many more. I’ll just stick to the four districts above that I routinely look to for their ideas, programs and results.
With the governor dedicating increased aide, especially in the amount that’s been dedicated to Gowanda, we cannot ignore the significance of our leadership dedicated to instructional improvement. Yes, as a principal, I worked hard on this very thing. But as a principal, managing the needs of our students, parents and teachers is a full time job. In my opinion, my focus on instructional improvement, despite the significant changes we’ve made, has never been sufficient.
We simply need more work in this area if we truly dedicate ourselves to gains in student achievement. If we’re going to compare ourselves to more successful districts, as we should, we can’t just scratch our heads and wail about why we’re not doing as well as they are. We have to also ask, “what are they doing that we’re not?”
I’ve been doing that for three years for the high school and the result has been increased electives, honors classes, a revised bell schedule to optimize instructional time, the elimination of ineffective curriculum and the addition of staff in remedial services, the addition of our summer school at no cost to our families, the revision of our AIS program, a culture of literacy initiative, positive programs for students, and a coordinated focus on instructional improvement and increased achievement on the Regents exams plus a drop out prevention study.
Asking questions and identifying improvements. Focusing on the results we’re getting and figuring out what we can do better. Addressing the tough issues in a compassionate, to the point manner. This is my strong suit. This is why the assistant superintendent position allows me to help our district move in a more significant way than I can as a high school principal.
What’s that definition of insanity I’ve heard before? To keep doing the same thing over and over, in the same way, expecting a different result.
We have the money now, thank you Governor Spitzer, we’re adding this position with a zero increase to taxes and we bring in a new high school principal which adds brain power to our team. Makes sense to me.
I’m game, let’s get to it.