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Slack says strong Medina school district key to community’s future

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2016 at 11:43 am
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Photo by Tom Rivers: Dr. Aaron Slack, current high school principal in Lyndonville, speaks during a community forum on Wednesday. He is a finalist for Medina school superintendent. Dr. Clark Godshall, Orleans/Niagara BOCES superintendent, is at lower left.

MEDINA – When Aaron Slack graduated from Medina High School in 1990, like many students from a small town he was eager to leave the community.

Now he sees Medina enjoying a “renaissance” in the downtown, and its business parks are filling up with companies.

Slack said the area is poised for more growth with high-tech companies coming to the STAMP site just across the county line in the Town of Alabama.

Engineers and highly skilled workers will be looking to move near STAMP. Medina is one of many communities they will be considering, Slack said.

“STAMP could be a game-changer, but what will differentiate Medina?” Slack said during a community forum on Wednesday, where he was featured as one of three finalists for Medina school superintendent.

A strong school district with a sound education that is technologically relevant and offers extracurricular opportunities will be important to keep and attract Medina families, Slack said

He met with district stakeholders on Wednesday, including students. Some of the student leaders said there isn’t equal access for all students to technology. Slack wants to level the playing field and bridge the digital divide.

He also wants teachers to use technology to engage students. That’s what he did 20 years ago as an eighth grade English teacher in the Greece school district. He went on to be a middle school assistant principal and then principal in Greece. Then he worked for the Harrison Central School District in Westchester County as director of technology before returning to the Rochester area as an administrator for the alternative school run by the Monroe 1 BOCES.

In 2011, he came closer to home when he was hired as principal at the Lyndonville High School.

Slack said Jason Smith, the Lyndonville district superintendent, has been a great role model for a district leader. Smith is transparent with the Board of Education, and maintains a student-focus with strong connections in the community.

Slack has seen the Medina-Lyndonville shared services partnership first hand. The arrangement has benefited both districts by preserving athletic teams and the school musical, drawing from students from both schools. That shared service expanded this year with two Lyndonville students joining the Medina FFA.

Slack said he would favor more partnerships among the two districts with academic programs, including Advanced Placement courses.

Educationally, he said schools need to make it a priority to have every student reading by third grade. If students can’t reach that benchmark at that grade “they will be behind the 8-ball the rest of their academic careers.”

He was asked about the Common Core standards and high-stakes testing for grades 3 to 8. Slack said the tests are typically taken in April-May and districts don’t get the results until October. That is far too long of a delay, and doesn’t allow schools and parents to move fast enough to help struggling students.

Lyndonville has been using real-time testing so it can measure student progress and work with students who may need extra help.

The high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations, and Common Core have been “a perfect storm of stress” for the teaching profession, Slack said. He worries about an “emerging teacher shortage” due to the recent education changes. But Slack said Medina can be attractive for teachers if they have leadership opportunities, a supportive administration and “a voice in the process.”

He was asked about bullying and said Lyndonville has worked hard to embrace character education and create “a safe and caring climate.” The district has an anonymous online form to report bullying.

At Lyndonville, all students from grades Pre-K and 12 are on one campus using the same bus run. Older kids have been mentors to younger students.

He said he is most proud of the 98 percent graduation rate at Lyndonville last year. But Slack said no student should not graduate.

Slack said he would welcome the chance to be superintendent in his hometown. He currently lives in Medina and knows many of the residents and students. He said he would be visible in the schools and at after-school events.

“Being superintendent is two jobs – the people and the paper, and the people come first,” he said. “You can’t get swept up in the bureaucracy of being superintendent.”

The Medina Board of Education is considering three finalists for the job. In addition to Slack, the board and district stakeholders met with Dr. Stephen Lunden, the assistant superintendent at Maryvale, on Monday and Dr. Michael Weyrauch, principal at the Orleans-Niagara BOCES in Medina, on Tuesday.

Wendi Pencille, BOE president, said the board is working to make a decision soon.

 

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