Eileen Berlanti enjoyed her time with Schenectady before, both the teachers and working with the students.
Now the social worker is returning to the district.
“I’m just ready for a new challenge,” Berlanti said Monday morning at a breakfast welcoming new hires in the district. “Working in the school I think will be fun.
“I’m just excited, excited to start,” she said.
If Berlanti and the other new Schenectady City School District hires were excited Monday morning, city schools Superintendent Laurence Spring was perhaps as excited to have them.
That’s because Berlanti is one of more than 100 new hires for the district. In recent years, that number has hovered in the 30s as budget cuts kept hiring down.
This year, though, is the first year since Spring has been superintendent that they’ve been able to add programs. In one case, the district received an additional $1 million in federal aid geared toward districts with larger numbers of children in poverty, a 32 percent increase over the previous year.
The programs the added staff are going toward involve special education, college readiness and long-term suspension diversion.
“This is the first year since I’ve been a superintendent where I feel like we’ve actually been able to provide more services to the kids than we were last year and that’s a great feeling,” Spring said.
In remarks to his new employees, Spring stressed the district’s mission: “To ensure that race, economics and disability no longer serve as a predictor of student achievement.”
He repeated that twice.
He also told a story from one of his previous jobs, where he conducted student discipline hearings. He recalled being struck by one better-off student receiving letters of support. The students were disciplined the same, but he recalled being infuriated that all the other children didn’t have the same advocates.
Spring told his new employees that part of their job will be to like the students who are hard to like.
“They are going to do things that are going to test you,” Spring said. “They are going to want to see if you give up on them. Your job is to like them. Those kids that are hard to like, more than anyone else, need someone in the building who will write that letter for them.”
Also speaking at the welcome breakfast were school board Vice President John Foley and Mayor Gary McCarthy.
Foley talked to those gathered about affecting young people, while McCarthy spoke of efforts to bring people back to the neighborhoods and a “big selling point” in those efforts is the schools.
Another new hire at the breakfast was incoming reading teacher Amy Higgs. She’s assigned to K-8 and she’s looking forward to starting.
“I was really excited that I got a job here,” she said. “I think it will be really rewarding.”