When Rich Hughes interviewed for his new job as Central Valley’s superintendent of schools, he repeatedly said he needed to get to know the people of the district to better understand the school and the community. In his first weeks, he visited each school, speaking randomly with students and staff. On Tuesday, Jan. 20, he began the first of several formal meetings with faculty, staff and community members, this one at Central Valley Academy.
“I would like to meet everyone individually, but that is not practical. So, we are holding a series of meetings that let me hear from larger groups of people. My goal is to reach out to all major groups, employees, business leaders, local officials, parents and community members over the next few weeks,” he said.
He began the Jan. 20 meeting by saying there are three major factors that will influence the district in the immediate future. First is the news from Albany, specifically the governor’s education agenda and the budget. Governor Cuomo has clearly stated that he wants greater control over education and teachers and is prepared to use school funding as leverage. Second, is the roughly $3 million Central Valley will receive for technology through the Smart Bond Act passed last November. He asked that interested people become part of technology committees at the district and building levels to find the best ways to invest this money to improve the quality of education for our students. Third, is the work of the program and facilities committees, currently wrestling with ways to improve the quality of education Central Valley provides it students by how the buildings are designed and structured. As that picture comes into focus, he anticipates changes that will better align what and how Central Valley teaches with students need to be successful after high school.
The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to answering three specific questions. He said he needs these answers before he can begin creating a vision that will set the direction for Central Valley and its students.
The three questions and summaries of the responses from the Central Valley Academy meeting were:
What does Central Valley do well?
- The high school a well-ordered learning environment.
- The first 18 months of the merger have gone smoothly
- The high school has a strong science department.
- The faculty works well together.
- The school is offering expanded AP and College Now courses.
- College Now is free through Herkimer County.
- The arts program is strong, especially the drama productions.
- Special education kids blend in.
- We, as staff, know our kids and care about them.
- We are reaching some or most of our students. This varies by each person’s experience.
- The facilities are relatively modern and are in good repair.
- Central Valley Academy students are good kids.
- We are working to instill a strong work ethic in students.
Where could Central Valley improve?
- Students coming into high school often lack self-discipline and work ethic. This is most often seen when freshmen refuse to do assignments.
- We need to do a better job recruiting parents to support their children’s education.
- We need to address a perceived increase in drug problems. Even if the drugs are not seen in school, there are strong undertones of a growing drug culture.
- Too many students do not attend school regularly.
- We need to foster community pride in our students and our school.
- We are well behind in our technology integration.
- Staff needs better training to effectively use technology.
- Field trips to colleges would expose students to opportunities offered by a college.
- Students need exposure to career opportunities.
- Students would benefit from hearing former graduates’ career success stories.
What do you expect of me as your superintendent?
- Be visible in the school and in the community.
- Support education, not the budget.
- Show that we are on the same team. (Mr. Hughes’ Christmas cards to staff was a simple and appreciated reminder.)
- Be a leader with a vision and share that vision with others.
Future meeting with other groups
Mr. Hughes has plans for other meetings. He will be at Jarvis Middle School on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at Barringer Road Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 28 and Fisher Elementary on Thursday, Jan. 29.
His is currently planning at least one evening meeting where he will meet with parents and the community. He will announce that date via the district website, Facebook and Twitter (@CVThunderSuper and @Cvalleycsd). He is also speaking with various civic and business groups to arrange similar sessions.