The second of three finalists for the Schenectady School District’s high school principal position appeared at a community forum Tuesday, stressing his experience in improving science test scores.
Henry Kaiser, 68, cited his experience as supervisor for K-12 science and technology in the South Colonie School District from 1989 to 2003.
He said the district’s science test scores ranked near the bottom of the Suburban Council schools; he implemented a new teaching model that required teachers to check for how the students where understanding the material on a “minute-by-minute” basis and improved evaluation standards.
He eliminated the different groupings of students by ability and decided to have a uniform curriculum for science. Marginal students would receive more services. Also, teachers received reports on how students of different genders and ethnicity performed.
“They have to address what they did poorly and where they could improve,” Kaiser said before 15 people in Schenectady High School’s Black Box Theatre.
Also, he allowed students to retake tests they have failed.
“You get to take your bar exam more than once. You get to take your driver’s license more than once,” he said. “To say you can’t give these kids retests and re-quizzes flies in the face of everything else we do.”
As a result of these changes, he said 58 percent of South Colonie students received 4s on the science test that is scaled from 1 to 4. This is compared with the statewide average of 31 percent.
Kaiser also served as deputy superintendent of the Pittsfield, Mass., School District from 2005 to 2007.
He brought some of the same reforms to that school, with similar success. However, he left after two years because he said he was tired of the politics in their system. “I said I can’t do the things I need to do here.”
He returned to the classroom as a teacher for one year and then retired. However, he said he got sick of playing bad golf and wanted to get back into education. He substitute taught, including in Schenectady, before accepting a position as chemistry teacher at the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany.
He said he wanted a new challenge and thought the associate superintendent position would be a good fit. He said he wanted “to lead teachers who are inspired and happy and are high-fiving each other in the hallway,” which is what happened in South Colonie when they boosted their science scores.
Kaiser added that he believes that the high school principal has to be another person that encourages the students and gives them the pep talk about doing well in school and preparing for their future.
Kaiser is the second of the three finalists to visit the school. John Harrison, currently principal of Mercer Island High School in the Seattle suburbs, came last week and Helen Anne Livingston, former superintendent of the Chester Union Free School District in Orange County, will be at a community forum today at 5:30 p.m. in Room 128 of Mont Pleasant Middle School.