On April 17, the Hunterdon Central Board of Education appointed me to serve as Superintendent. My official start is in early July.
Since my appointment, I have spent many hours in the school and the community. I remain awed by the talent and passion that thrive in every corner, from every person. I recognize them in meetings with staff and administrators, while answering questions from parents, in classroom presentations and explorations, on stage at Devil’s Cabaret and in the Commons on Family Science Night, in conversations with members of the Board of Education–everywhere.
Folks behave as if this is nothing out of the ordinary. I am beginning to feel self-conscious about pointing it out. Not all communities exhibit the raw capacity that arcs like electricity through the air of this place. Whether or not I stop talking about it, I promise that I will never take it for granted.
Entry Plan Goals
I hope to draw inspiration from this capacity, and the long history of excellence it has written, to seize opportunities for increased student achievement, more effective internal and external communication, and sustained innovation.
We are poised to take bold and confident next steps.
I have many ideas for Hunterdon Central, from expanded partnerships with Raritan Valley Community College and other organizations, to deeper personalization in the district’s program through magnet and career/technical education programs.
I note, however, that there is a ripe opportunity to work with staff, students, and the community on a strategic plan.
This has to come first.
Good ideas, including my own, are most potent when they advance a common vision. For that reason, one of my chief priorities is to begin the work of drafting that strategic plan.
I have the following short-term goals to prepare myself and the district for the strategic planning process:
- Establish proactive board/superintendent relations that effect a smooth transition and build a foundation for continued excellence.
- Establish relationships with stakeholders to map expectations, develop and share expertise, and open appropriate advisory channels.
- Develop and/or revise practices for determining, communicating, implementing, and evaluating strategic and other long-range plans.
- Identify and operate levers for organizational improvement and innovation, increased academic achievement, and broadened communication.
Establish proactive board/superintendent relations that effect a smooth transition and build a foundation for continued excellence.
The men and women who volunteer their time to serve on your Board of Education each have a deep stake in the success of Hunterdon Central. I am proud of and humbled by the trust that they have given to me.
I have met with each of the members since my appointment. I am using the intake from those meetings to consider objectives for a Board of Education retreat. In that retreat, I hope to partner with the Board of Education in an assessment of its organizational, communications, and deliberative practices. Together, we need to determine the extent to which each of those practices already contributes to a culture of trust, accountability, innovation, and choice–the hallmarks of an organizational commitment to strategic growth.
Establish relationships with stakeholders to map expectations, develop and share expertise, and open appropriate advisory channels.
I have been eager to meet members of the community, both inside and outside of the school, who are interested in the future of Hunterdon Central. I am thankful for all of the introductions that people have made on my behalf, as all of the events I have attended and meetings I have taken have helped me to understand important truths about Hunterdon Central.
After I work with staff to assess our formal channels for collecting feedback, I will ask the community to participate in short surveys and other activities to help us zero in on the values that will guide our strategic planning. I will facilitate focus groups and other events throughout the summer and fall to broaden our understanding of those values. I congratulate Student Council for the work that they have already done on values in their Unity Summit. Their work will act as the foundation of our exploration.
Moving forward, I will establish several advisory groups, including an advisory group of students.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to learn from mentors who understand the importance of relational trust. In all that I do to prepare for this post, I learn the most from honest conversation with people who spend their time in and are concerned about our school. I strive to walk in the shoes of our students and their teachers. I hope to understand Hunterdon Central from their and many other viewpoints in order to gain the best view over the obstacles that stand in our way.
Develop and/or revise practices for determining, communicating, implementing, and evaluating strategic and other long-range plans.
Hunterdon Central has many long-range plans. Some deal with facilities, others concern technology, and others plot instructional innovations. Many of these plans operate under separate mission statements. There is good work to do in gathering all of these plans under a single living mission statement.
I have already begun the data and other analyses necessary to understand the district’s “green zones” and “red zones.” Once we have a full accounting of the school’s strengths and weaknesses, and a map of all of the current plans for growth, we will be in a strong position from which to enter partnerships with other school districts. Deep innovation in education relies on these “communities of practice” among schools across the country and the world. I look forward to bringing Hunterdon Central into those communities, offering our strengths in service to partners who may be able to held us mitigate our weaknesses.
Identify and operate levers for organizational improvement and innovation, increased academic achievement, and broadened communication.
Hunterdon Central is, to put it bluntly, teeming with doers. There is an enormous number of students and staff who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to the serious work of declaring and realizing a strategic vision.
These doers are already working through many structures that will be useful to the effort. Over the past several years, the New Jersey Department of Education has mandated evaluation and other structures like the School Improvement Panel. These mandated structures are functioning well at Hunterdon Central. The district has built additional structures, particularly for the professional development and training of staff.
Hunterdon Central’s students achieve to an incredible degree. It is almost hard to imagine much room for improvement. However, we commit our mission and vision to all students.
All means all.
We must identify and vanquish the inequities that hide beneath the aggregated success. To do this, we must meet the challenges that every single student brings to the table, open doors for all students as they progress through our program, and celebrate the wonderful things that every student accomplishes.
Fortunately, Hunterdon Central has a wide array of tools for communicating and celebrating all of the good work of students and staff. I anticipate having a lot of good news to share.
An Invitation …
It is not enough to say that I am open to community participation and feedback. Our success depends on it. As we move forward, I am ready to visit and speak with all who have something to share.
It sometimes feels like a truism when superintendents declare themselves to be “Learners-in-Chief.” Coming as I do, however–as a new member of the school community, a long-time student of its success, and a leader desiring to walk and work alongside all partners who carry a stake in the future of Hunterdon Central–I recognize that I currently and will always have a lot to learn.
I welcome the mentorship that all of you can offer.
… And a Note of Thanks
You should know that you have been working with an uncommon leader over the 2016/17 school year. I am indebted to Dr. Johanna Ruberto for all of the work that she has done as Interim Superintendent, and all that she continues to do to ensure a smooth transition. I am deeply honored to count her among my colleagues.