Friday, December 20, 2019

Holiday Thoughts: It Takes A Village

This month and throughout the first half of this school year, I find myself using the hashtag #ItTakesAVillage in many of my tweets (I hope you are following me on Twitter). This well-known African proverb essentially means that it is the responsibility of an entire community to look out for and support children so that they experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

When I think of our community, and the acts of kindness and generosity from our students, staff and families, especially around this special time of year, I am truly humbled. The spirit of “It Takes a Village” is demonstrated daily in our schools. Recently, we collected snow boots and jackets to provide to students who lack warm winter wear. In October, Spanish teacher Meg Fronczek started a Crocs and Socks campaign after noticing students coming into school on rainy days with wet sneakers and socks. Many of our teachers and support staff stepped up donating hundreds of pairs of socks and Crocs so now our students have access to dry socks and a pair of comfortable Crocs they can borrow during the school day, giving their socks and sneakers or shoes a chance to dry before the walk home.
This December, both our schools (WES, WJSHS) again participated in adopt-a family efforts to purchase gifts for children of local families in need and help make their holidays brighter. Through the adopt-a-family at WJSHS, 45 children from the Watervliet Housing Authority received two to three presents each (toys and clothing) delivered by Santa and Mrs. Claus a week before the holiday. Meanwhile, a total of 40 children were provided gifts between the school and community adopt-a-family effort at Watervliet Elementary School. My sincere thanks to our teachers and staff for their continued support that brings smiles to the faces of some of our neediest students and their siblings.

I tweeted about the many good deeds performed by our students as they gave back to their community throughout December:

WHS students serve holiday lunch at Watervliet Senior Center
The Cannoneer Chorus sings at Watervliet Senior Center
WES student ambassadors deliver holiday beauty to residents of Watervliet Housing
WES students collect pajamas for Unity House

Looking ahead to 2020: Capital Project Vote

Earlier this month, the Board of Education voted on a resolution that would authorize $9.99 million in capital improvements for Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School and Watervliet Elementary School. District residents will have an opportunity to vote on the referendum Tuesday, February 4.

Unlike our last facilities improvements that included big-ticket, highly-visible improvements like the turf field and the track, the project we are proposing now is best described as “no-frills” because it addresses the district’s most immediate facilities needs, as identified in the latest building condition survey: aging infrastructure, and health and safety improvements.

A building condition survey is a thorough inspection conducted by a team made up of at least one architect or engineer and certain district staff. The State Education Department requires all school districts in the state to submit a building condition survey every five years to collect information on the district's infrastructure and prioritize facility needs district-wide. The data collected helps district officials assess current conditions of program spaces and major building systems to prioritize the most essential repairs and restorations.

From January through June, a Facilities Advisory Committee that included school leaders, teachers, maintenance staff, school board members, students and parents, met with our district’s architectural consultants to take a deeper dive into our facility and maintenance needs and make recommendations to present to the Board. Factors considered by the committee included protecting the health and safety of students, staff and school visitors; systems and equipment that have reached or are near the end-of-life expectancy; deteriorating building components; and the ability to service or repair outdated equipment.

The final project scope includes such items as roof replacement at both buildings; replacing elevators at the elementary school and renovating the high school elevator; heating and ventilation systems work; and drainage at the elementary school playground. Visit our website for more information on the project scope

State building aid would cover 95 percent of the cost of the proposed capital project. The remaining 5 percent of the project would be funded through a 1.06% increase in the overall property tax levy, based on the current tax cap data for the district.

We invite you to learn more about the proposed capital project at two presentations scheduled for January 7, 2020 and January 16, 2020 at Watervliet Elementary School. I encourage you to attend and ask questions to make an informed decision when you vote in February.

School Budget Development

Also, in January we will be diving into the 2020-21 school budget development process. The Capital Region BOCES Superintendents’ Legislative Committee, which I help lead with Niskayuna’s superintendent of schools, met recently with NYS Senator Shelly B. Mayer, who chairs the State Senate Education Committee, to discuss foundation aid formula and other educational priorities. This is ahead of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State, which he will deliver in early January. My administrative team and I will pay close attention to that address for information that will guide our budget development for the coming school year. The state reportedly is facing a $6 billion budget gap, so we will have to wait and see how that impacts school aid.

Happy holidays to all!

I hope you will take time this holiday season to reflect upon the positive aspects of your lives, and enjoy the most precious gift of all—time spent with family and friends. May you all enjoy a relaxing and peaceful holiday season.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Conversations provide opportunities to raise awareness, promote healing

After nearly three decades in education, I was certain that I had experienced all the aha moments I was ever going to have. A few weeks ago, however, I found myself sitting in a circle discussion with high school students, staff and community members that turned out to be one of the most powerful experiences of my career.

As the conversation progressed, the diverse group of students began to open up and share some of their most personal stories. Each student spoke about some type of trauma – in some cases, a combination of adversities – that have had a profound impact on them.

I don’t often get emotional, but was literally brought to tears as I listened to the conversations. Happy tears because I was so proud of their courage and honesty, and sad tears because it was heartbreaking to hear some of the awful experiences these children have lived through and/or witnessed in their short lives.

Understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is critical to the work we do as educators. ACEs are defined as traumatic events such as violence, abuse, or neglect that children experience throughout their young lives. Growing up in an environment with substance abuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other close family member can undermine a child’s sense of safety and stability. Abuse, neglect and household dysfunction can happen anywhere; and sadly, for many of our students, it is a reality. It's important for us to understand how these experiences impact a student’s well-being and their ability to learn.

Children who have experienced trauma often think and act differently. More often than not, learning can be a big struggle for them. Once trauma is identified as the source of negative or destructive behavior, however, we can adapt our approach to better support students in school.

As a school community, we continue to raise our own awareness of the impact of ACES on our students. We have participated in trainings to learn more about trauma-informed practices in our classrooms. My hope is that the more teachers and staff understand our students’ experiences, the more we can assist in meeting their needs and support them in being successful.

Since that initial conversation in September, students and staff members have gathered in smaller groups to discuss the challenges, the concerns and the struggles our young people face. They have had the courage to address topics that are routinely avoided in conversation, including race, diversity, poverty, and sexual identity.

These conversations are one component of our district’s strategic goal to support students in a safe and positive school environment. Students with traumatic backgrounds benefit from restorative practices, such as these circle discussions, rather than punitive approaches to discipline. To quote a restorative justice coordinator from the New York City Department of Education: “Relying solely on punishment leaves out the important and healing lessons that students of trauma so desperately need.”

Through these discussions, I have learned how incredibly brave our students are, and the reality of how harsh and cruel this world can be to young people. At the same time, I am inspired by their resilience and their determination as they show up for school every day. Which is why we owe it to our students to do whatever it takes to create a safe and supportive learning environment for every student, every day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Ready, set, go! The start of the 2019-20 school year is here

It is hard to believe that another summer has flown by and a new school year is upon us. I am excited to welcome back students and staff for the 2019-2020 school year! I hope that our educators and staff, as well as our students and their families took time to relax and enjoy vacations and other fun summer adventures together and that you return to school rejuvenated and eager to teach and to learn.

I thank our 12-month staff and my administrators who worked throughout the summer preparing for the start of the new school year. The leadership team has been hard at work hiring new teachers and staff, overseeing summer programs in both buildings, as well as attending and facilitating professional development. Thanks as well to our school bus drivers who provided transportation for summer programs and our cafeteria workers who prepared summer meals for students. I also thank our maintenance staff and student work crews who worked diligently during the past several weeks to clean and prep our buildings for opening day on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Power of communication

As mentioned in my previous blog, thanks to a scholarship from NYSCOSS I traveled to Switzerland in July for a leadership conference with several of my superintendent colleagues from New York. Visiting historic sites and breathtaking landscapes was amazing, but the Leadership Summit during our final three days was one of the most inspiring and powerful events I have participated in throughout my nearly three decades as an educator. The summit brought together students and educators from around the globe to consider “The Power of Communication” and its impact on the world. This is a theme that I plan to explore further this year with teachers and staff as we consider how communication applies to the work we do every day.

One way is doing our best to understand the unspoken messages that our students send without saying a word. As adults and as educators, it is our responsibility to pick up on these messages, build appropriate relationships with our students and learn all we can about them in an effort to best serve them. Another way is to make sure that we build and maintain open lines of communication with parents and caregivers to strengthen the home-school connection. There is a plethora of research that shows parental involvement in education is an important factor in student success. So let’s start making that connection with parents early in the school year, especially for our at-risk students.

Summer book club a best seller!

Speaking of powerful — our summer book club was a huge success! From mid-July through mid-August, students, teachers and administrators packed classrooms each week to discuss the “The Hate U Give” by Angie Davis. I applaud our English department teachers for selecting this contemporary novel with its relevant and engaging themes for teenage readers. I was able to participate in a few of the hour-long discussions and was impressed with the thoughtful, respectful and honest conversations that occurred among students and staff. Student interest and turnout for summer book club definitely exceeded our expectations!!

Welcome to our new staff!

Lastly, I am filled with excitement about the new educators who will be joining us this year. They come from diverse backgrounds, some have experience in this field and some are just beginning their careers. I encourage our veteran teachers and staff to offer them your support and show your collaborative spirit.

I look forward to serving my eighth year as your superintendent and remain fully committed to our mission of challenging, inspiring and educating every student, every day. I feel strongly this will be our best year yet for a multitude of reasons! Welcome back everyone!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Global learning experience

As educators, we often encourage students to continue learning over the summer break. I took that advice to heart earlier this month when I traveled to Switzerland as part of an international education conference. Thanks to a scholarship from the New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS), I was afforded the remarkable opportunity to participate in the Global Leadership Summit with several of my colleagues from around the state.

The learning experience began with our first day landing in Geneva when we toured the Cathedral of Coure de Saint-Pierre in Geneva, a Gothic cathedral that became the adopted church of John Calvin, a leader of the Protestant Reformation. Such rich history!

The next stop was Lausanne and a visit to the Rolex Learning Center on the campus of Ecole Polytechnique FΓ©dΓ©rale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of Europe's most famous science and technology institutions. The Rolex Learning Center, with its innovative and energy-efficient design, functions as a laboratory for learning, a library and an international cultural hub for EPFL that is open to both students and the public. On our walking tour of Lausanne, which runs along Lake Geneva and has the Swiss Alps in view, we visited many cathedrals and churches that overlook the city, as well as green grass and flowers that blanket the entire city.

From Lausanne, we headed to Zermatt where we rode a Matterhorn cable car to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Many of us went tubing down parts of the Matterhorn as well as climbed through glaciers.  At the peak of the Matterhorn, on the viewing deck, we were able to look down on the Swiss, Italian and French Alps.

Next, we traveled to the city of Lucerne, a city famous for its medieval architecture. We walked the Chapel Bridge, which is the longest and oldest covered wooden footbridge of its kind in Europe. The bridge, with its decorative interior paintings, spans the River Reuss. We then visited another iconic site ‒ and my most favorite ‒ the Lion Monument, a large stone carving along the side of a cliff. This monument, which is a tribute to Swiss mercenaries who were killed or executed during the French revolution, depicts a dying lion impaled by a spear and his expression is visceral.

Our tour continued in Zurich with a stop at the Education First headquarters. While there, our group of New York superintendents met with counterparts from Ohio and discussed a variety of topics including best practices in education, the pros and cons of the education systems in our respective states, and the power of communication. Later that day, we took a relaxing cruise on Lake Zurich where we were able to network with colleagues and enjoy the picturesque scenery.

The following day we visited Liechtenstein, which is one of the smallest states in Europe, adding another stamp to our passports. Located between Austria and Switzerland, this small country is home to about 5,000 residents. While in Liechtenstein, we visited the National Museum and its famous collection of bejeweled Easter eggs.

Later that week, our group joined teachers and students from North America and Europe in Davos, Switzerland for a three-day leadership conference. We heard from such inspirational speakers as slam poet Clint Smith, journalist Ann Curry, musician Kai Kight, and a panel of young adult activists including David Hogg, former Parkland student and the cofounder of March for Our Lives. As part of the leadership summit, the 2,000-plus international students were assigned to groups and worked tirelessly on projects based on the summit theme: “The Power of Communication.”  The final day of the summit, educators worked with the student groups who presented their proposed solutions to global communications challenges. We were asked to listen to each group’s one-minute pitch of their product/idea that would improve communication and offer our feedback. We rated the student projects, and the top 10 groups were asked to deliver their one-minute pitch on stage. A panel of judges comprised of the guest speakers and Education First guides then selected the winning project. That project will be on display in the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

I found the Leadership Summit so impactful because students were working on real-life, hands-on projects for the entire weekend. They all embraced working in and collaborating with diverse groups – it didn’t even matter that it was a Saturday! What stood out most to me was the energy in each room that I visited. It caused me to pause and ask, ‘why can’t every classroom look like this?’ Students were having fun learning, collaborating and problem solving. They were so proud of their creations and were accepting of the feedback that educators shared with them. It’s important that in Watervliet we strive toward creating learning spaces where students can be creative and motivated while learning. In an ideal world, I would love for students in Watervliet to travel outside the U.S.  Until that becomes a reality, we must work hard to bring these types of world experiences to them.

I am so grateful to have had this unforgettable experience, and for the connections, comradery and collegiality that I experienced among our group of 20-some educational leaders, and with the students and educators from other parts of the world. Oh, did I mention the Swiss chocolate? Yeah, that was pretty fantastic, too!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Congratulations Class of 2019!

The end of the school year is always a bittersweet time. Next week, we bid farewell to group of about 100 high school seniors who we have been educating, inspiring and challenging for the past 13 years of their lives. As the Class of 2019 prepares to move on from Watervliet High School, I wish them all the best in the next chapter, whether that be college, the workforce, or the military. The WHS commencement begins promptly at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26 in the Harry Tucker gymnasium.

Reflecting back on a busy 2018-19 school year

As the 2018-19 school year comes to a close, I want to take this opportunity to look back on the year that was, and take note of several successful initiatives that were launched this year. 

We expanded the What I Need (WIN) program, which has been greatly beneficial for elementary students, to junior high school students (grades 7-8). The Win program offers additional support to students who need it in English language arts and math. 

Also at the junior high and high school level, we introduced a school mentoring program for all students in grades 7-11. Every teacher and administrator, as well as instructional support staff, agreed to be a mentor to at least one student this year. The purpose of the mentor program is to build personal relationships with students and provide positive supports that will help them feel more connected to school, and in turn, improve attendance and student engagement in learning.

School Based Health Center continues to serve students

Whitney Young began operating a school-based health center in our school district in September. The program currently provides health services to about 60 percent of our students. As mentioned in my previous blogs, the school-based health center is located at Watervliet Jr./Sr. High School, but serves all students, prekindergarten through grade 12, whose parents enroll them in the program. The school-based health center provides immunizations and physicals required for school, and there is never a co-pay or an out-of-pocket cost for any SBHC services! We are hoping to expand the enrollment so that we can provide a health center on-site at Watervliet Elementary School. The health center is possible through a partnership between our school district and Whitney Young Health.

PTECH to begin year two

Eleven of our students recently completed their first year in the Capital Region Pathways in Technology Early High School (P-TECH) program. I am so proud of our students who are on their way to earning both their high school diploma and an associate’s degree from HVCC in information technology through this four- to six-year program (grades 9-14).

About a dozen incoming ninth-graders will enter the PTECH program in September. To prepare for the program, the students will participate in a week-long Summer Bridge program during where they will have an opportunity to get to know their classmates better, meet the program’s business and education partners, and be immersed in fun STEM-based and team-building activities.

On the Move

The Board of Education, upon my recommendation, recently appointed Don Stevens to the position of assistant superintendent from director of curriculum and instruction. In this new role, Mr. Stevens will continue to administer all things related to curriculum, instruction and professional development with added leadership responsibilities.

Also, you may recall in January Kelly Webster moved from assistant principal at Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School to principal at Watervliet Elementary School ‒ and she is doing a fantastic job there!

In other administrative news, beginning July 1, Michael Foust will become the assistant principal at WES, and David Wareing will return to the assistant principal position at WJSHS and take on the role of Athletic Coordinator. Over the summer, we will hire an assistant principal to fill Mrs. Webster’s former spot at WJSHS.

Farewell to our retiring educators, staff members

It is also a time to say good-bye to this year’s retirees and thank them for their years of service to the district and commitment to our students. Congratulations and best wishes to WHS social studies teacher Scott Burke and technology teacher Joe Facin; WES reading teacher Michaeleen Backus and cafeteria worker Elizabeth Sutherland.

Before they officially head out for a well-deserved summer vacation, I want to recognize our teachers and instructional support staff for the dedication, talent, energy and care they bring to educating our diverse student population. I value your efforts and your commitment to making a positive difference for every student, every day.

Thanks for supporting education

Finally, on behalf of the Board of Education, I thank everyone who took time to participate in the school budget vote and Board of Education election on May 21. I am grateful for the continued community support for our schools.

To our students, teachers and 10-month staffers, please enjoy a relaxing, safe and fun summer! We will do this all again starting in September.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Appreciating teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week

Around the country, this is National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10). Every student needs and deserves a champion. Our students depend on us to care for them, educate them and challenge them. I am proud to recognize and thank all Watervliet’s educators who not only teach but also care for and serve as role models for students in our schools.

I often remind teachers that although we cannot control the environment that our learners come from, we can be authentic and empathetic while creating a welcoming and nurturing environment so students can succeed during the time they spend with us at school. It is important to keep in mind, too, that the final weeks of the school year can be a restless and hectic time for students. I encourage teachers and staff to continue to be the positive and caring adults that our students can count on for support!

Tenure granted to five district educators

Five educators were recognized during the April Board meeting for earning tenure. Congratulations to grade 6 teachers Nikki LaBossierre and Anna Marie Magyar, elementary teacher Jennifer Williams, and high school science teachers Hillary Brochu and Cecelia Nicolaescu. Thank you for inspiring, educating and challenging every student, every day!

National Teacher of Year an inspiration to urban educators 

Speaking of teachers, it is inspiring to hear the words of Rodney Robinson, the newly minted Teacher of the Year. His is perhaps the most challenging – but I would bet also the most rewarding – task an educator can have. Mr. Robinson teaches social studies at the Binford Education Center, which is part of the Richmond Juvenile Detention Facility in Virginia. He believes ALL students, including those whose life experiences growing up in an urban environment have been difficult or greatly influenced by trauma and led to poor choices, deserve a high quality education and great teachers. He acknowledges that his students have made mistakes for which they are now paying, but he is committed to ensuring they get the second chance they deserve to overcome their challenges and succeed.

I applaud Mr. Robinson who says that as Teacher of the Year, he will use his voice to advocate for equity in education, which means making sure that all students receive the resources to achieve what they deserve, and cultural responsiveness to recognize the importance of including students’ culture in all aspects of learning. With these two principles, students can be empowered to achieve their goals. Read more about this amazing and dedicated educator

Top 10 students

Time now to recognize the Top 10 scholars of the Class of 2019! Congratulations to valedictorian Jared Sierra and salutatorian Waleed Ahmed, Alexis Dykes, Madyson Sawyer, Zagham Shah, Dylan Fumarola, Mustafa Raza, Dez’Jah Mitchell, Angelina Rodriguez and Hannah Linacre who round out the Top 10.
In addition to their outstanding academic performance, these students contributed to the school community in other ways: leadership, music and athletics. Although their intended college majors vary ‒from accounting to physics, and international trade to nursing – I know these Cannoneers will continue to make us all proud. Read more about the Class of 2019 Top 10

Remember to vote Tuesday, May 21

The annual school budget vote and Board of Education election takes place Tuesday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., during which Watervliet voters will consider a $28 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. Under this budget proposal, we are able to preserve our educational programs, services and opportunities for students, and remain within our allowable tax levy “cap” as determined by the state's formula. More about the budget proposal

Every resident of the community 18 and older has a voice in the funding and elected leadership of our school district. Whether you’ve been voting for years or will cast your first ballot on May 21, whatever your opinion may be, I encourage you to vote. I only ask that you learn as much about the proposed budget as possible before you head to your polling location. Please visit the district's budget web page, where you can find details about the proposed 2019-20 school budget and its impact on our schools and community.

End-of-year events

As the end of the school year approaches, I am excited to share some important upcoming dates and events that are scheduled during these final weeks of school:

  • Wednesday, May 8 – Grade 6 Transition Night, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 9 – National Honor Society Induction Ceremony, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 11 – Junior/Senior Prom, 7-11 p.m., Walk-thru, 6 p.m.
  • Monday, May 13 – Grandparents and Special Persons Night, 6:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 14 – Public Budget Hearing/Board of Education Meeting, 6 p.m. 
  • Thursday, May 16 – Garnet & Grey Spring Concert, 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 21 – Annual School Budget Vote/Board of Education election
  • Friday, May 24 through Tuesday, May 28 – No School, Memorial Day 
  • Thursday, May 30 – Spring Sports Awards Night, 6 p.m.
  • Monday, June 3 – NYS Regents Exam, 8 a.m.
  • Thursday, June 6 – Elementary Spring Concert, 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 12 – Senior Varsity Dinner, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 13 Board of Education Meeting, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, June 14 – WES Field Day
  • Tuesday, June 18 – Regents Exams begin
  • Monday, June 24 through Wednesday, June 26 – WES Half Days  
  • Monday, June 24 – UPK celebration, 9 a.m., 10 a.m. 
  • Tuesday, June 25 – Grade 6 Graduation, 9:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June 26 – Class of 2019 Commencement, 6 p.m., WHS gymnasium

Friday, March 22, 2019

2019-20 school budget development underway

The 2019-20 budget development process is underway, as School Business Manager Keith Heid presented a preliminary look at the budget numbers during the March Board of Education meeting. Mr. Heid reviewed our district’s projected expenditures based on the current academic programs and services we offer. He then recapped revenue estimates, including the amount of state aid we can expect to receive based on the governor’s state budget proposal. As mentioned in my previous blog post, our district could expect an increase of $151,731, or 1.2 percent more, in Foundation Aid under Governor Cuomo’s proposed Executive Budget.

This first look at budget estimates show a baseline budget gap of nearly $650,000 for the 2019-20 school year. That said, I remind everyone, including myself, that these are preliminary numbers, and that the budget process remains fluid as we wait for state budget negotiations to conclude in a few weeks, and we get a final determination on the amount of state aid our schools will receive.

In the meantime, as we move forward with developing our 2019-20 budget proposal, school leaders and administrators will continue to look closely at instructional and department-level priorities to identify areas for cost savings. At the same time, we will make every effort to preserve educational programs and opportunities that address our student needs, while being fiscally responsible to our community and working within the confines of the state’s tax levy cap.

There are two more budget workshops scheduled before the Board adopts its 2019-20 school budget proposal. I encourage parents, staff, students and community members to attend these workshops and learn more about the budget proposal before the public vote on Tuesday, May 21.

The workshops will take place:

  • Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. at WES, and 
  • Saturday, April 13 at 9:00 a.m. at WJSHS    

Honoring women in history

This month during the morning announcements in honor of Women's History Month, our high school students have been recognizing one woman each day who has made a significant impact on history. They have honored civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Noble Prize winning scientist Marie Curie, poet Maya Angelou and Susan B. Anthony, a prominent leader in the women's suffrage movement and champion of women's rights, among others.

To borrow a page from their playbook, I thought it would be interesting, as an educational leader and a woman, to pay homage to the first female superintendent of schools in the United States. Like our students, I first had to do some research. After an online search, I learned that the honor of being the first female superintendent of a public school belongs to Phebe Sudlow of Iowa!

In the mid-1800s, Miss Sudlow was a public school teacher in rural Iowa for 12 years before being asked by the school superintendent in the city of Davenport to teach in his schools. Three years later, she was appointed principal. But before accepting the principal position, Miss Sudlow made it clear to the school board that she expected to receive the same salary that would be offered to a man – and she refused to consider working for less. After thinking it over, the school board agreed to her request and she became the first woman superintendent in our country's history.

Not only was she the first woman to earn the title of superintendent, but she also assumed all the responsibilities of school leadership. Equally important, I learned that Phebe Sudlow was a true warrior for equal rights! During a time when male educators dominated the field and earned quite a bit more than women doing the same job, Sudlow led the charge for equal pay for women educators who were teachers during that era. She also became the first female professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa in 1878, even though she had no formal college degree.

Miss Sudlow was a member of a charitable women’s group in the late 1800s, known as the Ladies' Industrial Relief Society in Davenport, that operated an “industrial school” for poor people in the city. There students learned sewing and cooking skills that would help them land good jobs.

Miss Sudlow paved the way for me and other women who are in leadership roles in today’s schools. I hope to pay that forward by inspiring more women in education to follow the path to leadership as administrators in their schools and districts.

Drama Club production of Aladdin Jr was pure magic

Finally, I cannot overstate how proud I was sitting in the audience for the WJSHS Drama Club’s performance of the musical, Aladdin Jr., last Friday night. I was incredibly impressed with the level of talent of the cast members and the skill of the stage crew. It really was magic! Congratulations to all the students involved, including:

  • ShaQuan Jenkins, Aladdin
  • Jah’Nye Griffin, the Genie
  • Leigh-Amber Loeper, Princess Jasmine

And the entire cast and stage crew: Mark Pompey, Taleea Watkins, Jahan Malloy, Steffanie Mammoser, Anisa Parsons, Kahlysa Parsons, Tyler Beauregard, Jared Sierra, Olivia Jones, Jade Chastin, Emma Macie, Daryn Curry, Paige Grimmick, Jaelyn Sharpe, An'Twanaizja Uptegrow, Paige McCulloch, Megan Polaro, Mikayla Caminiti, Abby Zawistowski, Camryn Reedy, Kevin Cecchetto, Kendryek Flynn, Melissa Mayo, Mimi Kaurejo.

Bravo to club advisers Ms. Becker and Mrs. Brochu for your hard work to make this happen. I look forward to seeing what the Drama Club has in store (or on stage) next year!