New Schalmont Superintendent Carol Pallas credits predecessor Valerie Kelsey with putting the district on a solid footing going forward.
Pallas said Kelsey, who retired at the end of the year, helped save money in the budget with the closure of the district’s two elementary schools in 2011, met the district’s infrastructure needs through a series of capital projects and got the new teacher and principal evaluation system up and running.
“I don’t really see any major challenges. The former superintendent has worked very well with the community in establishing a district that’s in good shape and poised to continue,” she said. “I’m just really excited that I can step in at this stage and bring my experience to the table.”
Pallas officially started Jan. 1 but has been meeting district officials for several weeks after her appointment in November and getting up to speed on issues.
“It’s been a really nice transition and I’m glad to be here. I’m ready to dive in,” she said.
Pallas said she wants to build on the work that has already gone on in the district and develop a long-term plan for curriculum. Like all districts across the state, Schalmont is phasing in the new Common Core standards, a set of national expectations of what children should know at each grade level and when they graduate high school.
She is looking at developing a K-12 plan for literacy to help get everyone using the same set of practices. Pallas said Schalmont already has many of those strategies in place, but she wants to make them more coordinated.
“It’s not adding new things and reinventing things but bringing everything into alignment,” she said.
She is also looking at possibly implementing what are called Professional Learning Communities, a data-based approach to teaching that relies on looking at student and test results to shape lessons. The schools are doing that to some extent already and this fits in with the state’s education reform agenda.
“It’s using data throughout the school year to make determinations on instructional plans and decisions and to help students be successful,” she said.
In addition, there will also be plenty of work during the next few years to refine aspects of the teacher and principal evaluation plan, Pallas said.
The most immediate task is beginning to put together the 2013-2014 budget. Pallas said it’s too early to make any determinations until Gov. Andrew Cuomo comes out with his proposed aid amounts.
Business Manager Joseph Lenz said the district will have to make some cuts, but they should be minimal because of the cost-saving measures Schalmont implemented during the past couple years, such as the elementary school closures.
Pallas comes to the district after serving as chief academic officer for the Greece, Monroe County, school district, which has gone through the process of developing a $200 million budget.
She is optimistic about the district’s future. During her interviews for the job and subsequent discussions, Pallas said she learned that Schalmont is a close-knit community that cares about its schools.
“When you enter into an atmosphere like that, it’s not only welcoming, but it helps give you a focus for the future, knowing that you have the support of the community,” she said.