The Superintendent of the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District in New York shares his thoughts on accreditation, collaboration and baseball.
Q. Why did you choose a career in education?
A. I was inspired at a young age by talented educators who challenged me to do my best. As a beginning chemistry and biology teacher, I tried to emulate their abilities to make complex scientific concepts easy to understand. I taught in the science department at my former high school and am fortunate to have worked alongside my former teachers whom I consider mentors, advocates, colleagues and friends.
Q. What do you see as one of the main benefits of Middle States accreditation?
A. The accreditation process provides a wonderful opportunity to encourage collaboration and build capacity among the staff to promote a model of continuous school improvement. The long-term residual benefit is not the accreditation certificate itself but rather the collaborative teamwork of the administrators, faculty, and staff that leads to more pride and ownership in the entire school.
Q. Who inspires you and why?
A. My wife inspires me. We both defended our dissertations and earned our doctoral degrees in the same year all while raising three young children. She has been my friend, soulmate, my inspiration, and closest professional colleague.
Q. What advice do you have for teachers returning to the classroom this year?
A. As educators, we must continue to be mindful of the difference between evaluation and assessment.
While it is true that evaluations can be assessments and assessments can be evaluations, it is important to remember that evaluations, at their core, are value judgments. Evaluations are designed to allow us to make comparisons to a defined standard (criterion-referenced) and or the performance of a large population (norm-referenced) or individual (self-referenced). Assessments on the other hand are time-based feedback mechanisms that may occur before (diagnostic), during (formative), and after (summative) instruction.
In a world that appears to focus too much of its attention on evaluations, we as educators should remind ourselves of the importance of assessments and providing constructive feedback. Derived from the Latin “assidere” meaning to “sit beside,” we must continue to sit beside our students and to support them with regular and specific feedback so they can fulfill their potential.
Q. What is your favorite book and why?
A. My favorite book is actually a series entitled Teacher to Teacher: Project S.H.A.R.E., which stands for Studies Highlighting the Action Research of Educators. The nine-volume set of action research journals contained articles by faculty members and administrators from the Marcellus Central School District, where I was superintendent. Distributed to the faculty and staff, it helped to reduce the insularity of the classroom by allowing teachers to collaborate and learn from one another.
Q. What is one thing that may surprise people about you?
A. In spite of the fact that I grew up in Webster, N.Y., I am a huge Cincinnati Reds fan.
Q. What is one thing that you have learned along the way that you would like to share with others?
A. I have been fortunate to have been mentored by many wonderful people during my career. All of them reminded me that upon being promoted, I should never forget what it was like to work in that former job.
To that end, I have always remembered that education is an enterprise that depends on collaboration.
The prefix “co-” means together, jointly, or mutually. I hope all educators are able to work collaboratively, promote open communication, establish connections, encourage cooperation, foster collegiality, engage in meaningful conversations, make contributions, and remain committed to one of the noblest professions on the planet.