NEW BETHLEHEM – On the same night that the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address, the superintendent of the Redbank Valley School District also looked to the future as he presented his plans and goals to a small crowd gathered at the high school.
Dr. John Mastillo spoke for a little more than a half hour Tuesday evening, addressing the crowd of about 13 local residents in the school auditorium.
“Everything is a domino, everything’s a spiderweb — nothing can operate in isolation,” Mastillo said near the end of a presentation that looked at what he described as his three main focal points: budget, curriculum and security.
With half of the school year under his belt, the new superintendent said that as he and the district move forward, changes, large and small, are already happening.
“There are some big paradigm shifts taking place,” he told one resident who asked if his plan is different from how the district has operated in recent years.
Mastillo broke down his presentation into six areas: student growth and achievement; organizational leadership; operations and financial management; communication and community relations; human resources management; and professionalism.
On the topic of student growth and achievement, the superintendent said school officials would work on curriculum mapping, including how to help those who are gifted and advanced, while also improving the “child find” process of identifying students who are struggling and in need of additional help.
Collaboration with all staff across the district’s three school campuses was listed as a goal in the organizational leadership portion of the presentation. Mastillo said it was important for teachers to not only work with fellow teachers at their own grade level, but to talk with the teachers their students had in previous grades, as well as the teachers they will send their students on to in future years.
Mastillo also addressed staff alignment, saying that “there’s too many hands in the pot” currently when it comes to people entering data about students, which has led to inconsistencies and errors. He also said he wants to look at how the district can utilize its three guidance counselors more effectively.
“We’re going to work together to figure out how we’re going to do that,” he said.
He also said he would like to see the district move toward enhancing and expanding the reach of its federal programs so that more students can benefit.
In the third portion of his goals, operations and financial management, the superintendent said he is “very optimistic” that the final preliminary budget that will be presented in May will show a reduction in spending from the current school year.
School safety and security are also issues being addressed, he said, as officials look at restructuring the school entryways, updating the telephone system, enhancing security camera systems and updating emergency operations plans.
When it comes to communication and community relations, Mastillo said he wants to encourage two-way dialog, and pointed to an upcoming “Coffee & Conversation” time he has scheduled on Feb. 19 at the Redbank Valley Community Center from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. He also said he supports monthly meetings with teachers and district support staff, as well as open communication with local media.
As part of his human resources management goals, Mastillo said he wants to focus on empowering staff members and delegating duties.
“They’re in the trenches day in and day out,” he said of the importance of listening to teachers and staff. He said he encourages taking a different view to tackling an issue, rather then just sticking with the same old idea simply because that’s the way it has always been done.
Finally, on the topic of professionalism, Mastillo touted the importance of daily reflection and growth. He said that when educators stop wanting to learn and grow, they stop being beneficial to the people they are there to help.
“Every day is a learning experience,” he said, adding that it’s important to keep asking, “How are we impacting our community?”
Moving forward, Mastillo said he hopes to hold similar public meetings, and noted that Tuesday evening’s presentation was being recorded and would be posted on the district’s website.