Superintendent speaks to seniors
The picture at top left shows how some ceilings in the high school are unfinished this year. The district is between two phases of a renovation that is taking place over two summers.
Superintendent Ken Slentz was a guest speaker in the social studies class of Alanna Kramerson recently. She invited him to discuss how the role of superintendent fits into local government. His lively interactive visit included discussions about the function of a school board as well.
He noted that the seven board members are elected and serve without pay, serving three year terms.
Does the board hire and fire teachers? “No,” he said. “They hire one person. The superintendent.” The superintendent recommends/hires everyone else – with the benefit of a great team.
Students asked about his various responsibilities, including budgets, staff hiring and firing, and snow days.
“The superintendent decides snow days,” he confirmed, “but like with everything else I do, I don’t do it alone.” He told how he “texts like crazy with highway superintendents, and employees and others coming from other places” in order to assess conditions across the broad area included in the district. It can be horrible in one part of the district and sunny in another, he said.
The $32 million budget, ultimately, is his responsibility too, he said. He presents a budget to the board for a vote – but not without the input of many advisors. He also hires architects and engineers for very important projects. “I have a team I rely on for that as well. I have really smart people I rely on.”
Many discussions and decisions do or will focus on the fact that enrollment is down to 1,380 this year from 1,600 15 years ago, he said. Another challenge for the district is to consider the changing needs of students. “You are looking at jobs that didn’t exist when I was in school,” he said. “We need to prepare you differently. Our ultimate mission is to make you ready – for college, work, and life. “
He said that along with his team, “we need to provide you with every opportunity to figure out what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do.”
He urged students to vote in national elections as well as local elections. And then he charged them with being good citizens. Reach out, he said, to people who sit alone at lunch. “One of the most awkward places on the face of the earth can be the school cafeteria,” he said.
He shared the basic messages they’ve heard since Waterman School: Take care of each other. Take care of yourself. Take care of your school.”