By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — BEEKMANTOWN — Beekmantown Central School has narrowed its superintendent search down to two local candidates.
Daniel Mannix and Christopher Mazzella were named finalists following two public forums when four candidates introduced themselves to the community and shared their visions for the district.
Also previously considered for the position were Dr. David Glover, superintendent of Morristown Central School in St. Lawrence County, and Lisa Grenville, supervisor of special education at the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
In determining the two finalists, the School Board and stakeholder committee considered the feedback of their members, as well as that of forum attendees.
Beekmantown School Board President Debbie Passno said the board will conduct final-round interviews of Mannix and Mazzella on Tuesday and hopes to select a superintendent by midweek.
The candidate chosen will replace Scott Amo, district leader of six years, who will retire on Aug. 14.
A resident of the Beekmantown School District, Mannix described himself to forum attendees as a creative problem solver, good listener, tough decision maker, proven team builder and believer in collaboration and partnerships.
In his current position as deputy human-resource director and labor-relations specialist for Champlain Valley Educational Services, Mannix noted, he provides guidance and council for more than 20 of the area’s sitting superintendents and assists schools in developing budgets and negotiating contracts and shared-services agreements.
“I have a working knowledge of the Beekmantown School District,” he said.
Mannix’s vision for the district is to provide “progressive educational programming with a sustainable financial future.”
Accomplishing that, he said, requires expanding both online learning and technology, as well as partnerships with private businesses.
BCSD, Mannix said, is fortunate to be surrounded by natural resources, a growing wine industry and enterprises such as CVPH Medical Center, Luck Brothers Inc. and Nova Bus.
“We have to promote the awareness to our students and the access that our students have to these industries, positions and career paths by partnering in a much greater sense with those businesses,” he said.
He intends to increase the school’s graduation rate through credit recovery, Academic Intervention Services and the enhancement of alternative education for students.
MAGIC OF LEARNING
In addition, Mannix said, focused, monitored and consistent professional development must be used to improve achievement.
Students have to be connected to the teacher and the material being taught, he continued, and teachers must have superior instructional delivery.
“That’s when the magic of learning happens,” Mannix said.
Equally as important, he added, is developing a comprehensive plan for transparent, open and honest communication.
Mannix vowed to improve Beekmantown Central’s outreach by being visible in the community and discussing budgetary issues at public venues.
It is vital, he added, that education be sustainable.
“The worst thing in the world is you could have a system where our programming is down to nothing because our costs are so high,” he said.
His strategies for achieving sustainability include pursuing opportunities for shared services and energy-cost savings, examining contracts and retiree health-insurance expenses and looking for cost efficiencies in areas such as transportation and food services.
“We can’t hire someone who believes in doing what’s always been done,” Mannix said. “The whole education system is changing, from funding to pedagogical components ... I’ll bring those creative approaches.
“I promise as superintendent to bring leadership, vision, partnerships and communication.”
As Peru High School principal, Mazzella said during his presentation, he has worked to empower the abilities of teachers and students and has initiated many student-led programs, including a leadership team that allows kids to be involved in the school’s shared decision-making.
“In my experiences as a teacher and a principal and a community leader, I have been able to provide momentum in many aspects to take organizations and make them better,” he said.
Mazzella’s vision for Beekmantown Central is to transform it into a community of 21st-century learners who are tech-savvy leaders, critical thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators.
“All that gets done when the district and the leaders and the teachers and the staff model those things for our kids,” he said.
The organization, Mazzella noted, must have a triangulation of family, school and partnerships.
The school has to engage families by opening its doors to them and having consistent and transparent communication, he said, and partnerships are “key in a time when fiscal resources are really really tight.”
For example, Peru Central has a partnership with William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, which, Mazzella noted, is right in Beekmantown’s backyard. Through the partnership, honors chemistry students are able to do labs at the institute.
Peru is also a satellite office for Behavioral Health Services North, he added, enabling students access to psychological counseling without leaving campus.
In order to move Beekmantown Central forward, Mazzella said, the district must set high expectations centered on accountability and reflection; strengthening student achievement; providing quality support; using data; ensuring cost-effective fiscal responsibility and transparency; and continuous improvement.
“You have to create a set of goals that will align to our budgets, to our needs, to our values,” he said. “The goals guide the journey.
“And probably the most important thing for our community is transparency.”
Also necessary, Mazzella noted, is empowering leadership and maximizing the human capital of the entire learning community through mentoring, staff development, creativity and collaboration.
“Take the talent you have, identify it and share it.
“Teachers need to share,” he said. “They need to collaborate.”
‘MATTER OF TRUST’
In addition, Mazzella said, there must be teamwork, willingness to embrace challenges and trust within the school community.
“You don’t build trust with words; you build trust with action, and as the leader of Beekmantown Central School, that will be a large task, but it will happen with action,” he said.
“I will be a visible leader, I will be a listener, I will be a problem solver, and I will foster a community that works and continues together to maximize our talent.”
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org
Current Position: Deputy human-resource director and labor-relations specialist for Champlain Valley Educational Services. Education: Master of Science in education PreK-6, SUNY Plattsburgh. Certification: New York State School District Administrator, PreK-6 Elementary Education.
Former Positions: Assistant principal and head teacher, Hudson Falls Primary School, Fort Edward; tenured elementary teacher, Hudson Falls City School District; tenured elementary teacher, Ticonderoga City School District.
Current Position: Secondary School principal, Peru Central School District. Education: Master of Science in teaching in science education, SUNY Potsdam; Bachelor of Arts in physics, SUNY Potsdam. Certification: New York State School District Administrator, Physics/General Science Education 7-12.
Former Positions: High School principal, Peru Central School District; Middle School principal, Peru Central School District; physics teacher, Peru Central School District.