The Skaneateles Central School District is ready for the start of the 2012-13 school year with plans for better communication with parents and the community, an improved website and web presence, completed improvements on the school buildings and grounds and a plan of specific action for beginning the search for a new district superintendent.
Interim District Superintendent Judy Pastel began the board of education’s Aug. 21 meeting with news that the district’s website is being vastly improved to offer more and better information and communication with parents and community members.
“I believe every district can do better with communication,” Pastel told the Skaneateles Press. “I really want the website to be a place where people go to find out what’s happening, see student work, hear from students and have a vibrant window into the district.”
The first stages of the improved web presence already have begun with posted videos of Pastel giving a welcome message to the district, video of the class of 2012 jumping into Skaneateles Lake at the conclusion of this year’s graduation ceremonies and a welcome message from Waterman Elementary School Principal Gary Gerst for the 2012-13 school year.
Gerst’s video is only the first in a line of planned videos from all four school principals, district administrators and board of education members, all of whom will talk about specific issues, goals and information as an introduction to the opening of the new school year. Eventually, student work, events and interviews will be posted as well.
“We’re really excited about this,” Pastel said.
She added that she loved the video of the graduation lake jump, which she called “an incredible tradition,” and said that she is working with district administration to create an academic challenge for “all students” for the upcoming year that, if completed, will oblige her to jump in the lake with next year’s graduates.
Pastel also invited all BOE members to attend the all-staff meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and to be present in the bus loops on Wednesday, Sept. 5, to welcome students and staff on the first day of school.
“Just your presence means a lot to the staff,” Pastel said. “And you’ll enjoy seeing the kids come in off the bus.” She called it an “energizing” way to start a “great year.” All the BOE members appeared interested in the idea.
Dale Bates, assistant superintendent, business and finance, told the board that the district buildings are in the “best shape” they have been in for a while. He said all the major cleaning is completed, some exterior masonry and stairway repairs are done and minor asbestos removal was achieved during the summer. This last week before school begins will see some street and bus loop paving and topping and a new sidewalk put in, which will all be finished before school starts, he said.
Special Education director Lory Malinowski gave the school board a review of this year’s special education plans, which will focus on expanding the use of technology in the classroom for special education students, exploring new autism-related teaching strategies and working on an integrated co-teaching model for special education teachers. She said the number of special education students and teachers is roughly the same this year as it has been during the past few years.
The board also discussed in-depth how to begin in earnest the search for a permanent district superintendent, starting with the hiring of a professional consultant for the process.
“This is really the most critical question at the very beginning of the process,” said Pastel, who has been involved in two such superintendent searches at other districts in the past few years. “Until the board decides this, nothing happens.”
After discussing various options, the board agreed to ask for proposals from multiple consultants and from those proposals choose two or three consultants to invite in, along with the BOCES district superintendent, for interviews.
New board member Sue Benjamin asked how the search process was conducted eight years ago when it ultimately hired Phil D’Angelo as superintendent. BOE President Evan Dreyfuss said the board at that time hired a consultant group, but no one of the current BOE members were a part of that board.
“This is probably the most important decision this board makes this year,” Dreyfuss said.
Everyone on the board agreed they should move as quickly as possible to get the process started, and Dreyfuss suggested the board have a consultant in place within four-to-six weeks.
As of press time, the board had completed its official “request for proposal” letter and sent it out to multiple consultants on Friday, Aug. 24. The board hopes to review all submitted proposals and choose candidates to interview at its Sept. 18 meeting, Pastel said.
Also at the meeting, the board:
—Agreed in an unofficial straw poll to look into the possibility of accepting a donation by community parents and residents of new, state-of-the-art football helmets for school teams. The helmets are designed to better protect players from the danger of concussion. The possible donation is still in the discussion stages, and even if it comes through and the school board approves it, the new helmets may not be ready in time for the 2012 season, Pastel said.
—Had its first look at the new 2012-13 student handbooks for each school in the district. The biggest changes this year are the inclusion of new anti-bullying rules and new anti-concussion policy for certain sports. The handbook also contains for the second year the revised district codes of conduct. The handbooks all are available on the district website.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.