CASDA’s annual District Superintendents Panel was held on January 29th at UAlbany’s East Campus. This year’s symposium featured Jim Dexter, District Superintendent of the Washington, Saratoga, Warren, Hamilton and Essex County BOCES, Pat Michel, District Superintendent of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery County BOCES and Mark Jones, Assistant Superintendent at Capital Region BOCES. The discussion was moderated by CASDA Executive Director, James Butterworth, and centered upon funding, policy and instructional issues facing the educational community.
Panelists were asked to share their perceptions of Governor Cuomo’s proposed $1.1 billion increase in educational funding and the various requirements and stipulations associated with this funding package. Pat Michel offered insight into the Governor’s control of political dialogue. “While we are fixated on aid runs, the Governor is able to slip in all of these huge changes,” Michel observed. While the outcomes of the proposed changes “may be good or may be bad,” Michel highlighted Cuomo’s ability to dictate the terms of policy discussion. He emphatically claimed that the educational community’s only response to these tactics has been to “write a stern letter”. This ineffectual response, Michel opined, has led to educational policies and mandates that emerge outside the community of educators, forcing teachers, administrators and staff into a reactive position.
Later in the program, Dr. Butterworth asked the superintendents to discuss how their component districts are adapting to Common Core initiatives in the face of dwindling resources and stringent standards. Mark Jones emphasized that districts have put forth “a real and sincere effort to do what is best for kids despite shrinking resources.” Jim Dexter shared a very honest and personal perspective on this contentious issue. “I think about it as parent,” he said. “If we pulled Common Core out, how many years of consistent curriculum would my child miss…would this be fair to kids?” These questions posed by Mr. Dexter re-focused Common Core’s hotly contested rhetoric on what is ultimately at stake with this issue – children and their education. Both Jones and Dexter were able to cut through the polarizing rhetoric surrounding Common Core and articulate that “real and sincere efforts” of educators can impact a child’s education in transformative ways.
Each member of the District Superintendents Panel brought unique insight and vast knowledge to the discussion of complex issues facing the educational community. The program’s greatest strength, however, resided in the fact that Pat Michel, Mark Jones and Jim Dexter all spoke thoughtfully, incisively and with utter sincerity on issues that are often made confusing by political maneuvering.