Halloran ready for new year
GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District will start the new school year in a few weeks with a new superintendent in place who wants to spend time listening and learning before implementing changes within the school district.
“I hope to be visible. Obviously there’s a lot of work to be done behind this desk, but I want to get out in the buildings, I want to hear directly from the people, students, the families,” GESD Superintendent David Halloran said in his office on Thursday.
“I hope that by being present in the community that I will quickly ascertain the collective pulse of the community in regards to the school system and hearing the concerns, formulate my own thoughts on how to continuously improve the organization and slowly implementing those changes that I think are going to help students.”
Halloran was selected to permanently replace GESD Interim Superintendent Robert DeLilli by the Board of Education in March. Halloran officially assumed the position on July 1 with a contract running through the 2021-22 school year.
Halloran was the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District superintendent from 2015 through the end of the 2017-18 school year and previously served as the principal of Fonda-Fultonville High School starting in 2007. Halloran also held the assistant principal position at Johnstown High School for two years and taught social studies at Tamarac High School and Ballston Spa High School.
Halloran graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in history. He also holds a master’s degree in education from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, and earned his school district administrator certification from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
The 1992 Gloversville High School graduate said he has spent his first month on the job getting to know school administrators, developing goals for the 2018-19 school year with the school board, going over capital project work to make sure that buildings are prepared for use when school resumes, working on contract negotiations and generally familiarizing himself with the way the district is run.
With schools closed for summer vacation, Halloran said he hasn’t had the opportunity to get a full view of the way the district operates so far, but overall he is impressed with the opportunities that are available to students.
“There’s opportunities in this district that I don’t think you hear about a lot whether it’s college in high school, [advanced placement], a multitude of extracurricular activities, sports, clubs drama, music, having beautiful new state of the art facilities to play on, to perform on, Gloversville school system offers a lot,” Halloran said.
He acknowledged that not everyone living within district and surrounding area has a positive view of district schools, but he hopes to change that through open dialogue and improved communication.
“I feel like the focus has been on the negative aspects of what transpires sometimes in small city school districts and not the positive things that are available,” Halloran said. “I want to answer questions honestly and quickly and hopefully assure the community that safety and well being of the students and staff is our highest priority and get the collective conversation back to the important work of educating kids.”
Halloran said he wants to hear the ideas and concerns of students, parents and staff so they can be appropriately addressed, emphasizing the importance of the district working with community members to implement positive change.
He hopes to cultivate an open door policy with staff to get input from the people who know the district best, saying he is never too busy to hear from the people on the front lines of education.
“Teachers need to be part of the solution,” Halloran said. “It’s not important to have the best idea, it’s just important to know it when you hear it and you’re not going to hear it if you’re sitting behind closed doors.”
More concrete challenges exist as well, Halloran noted, pointing to the need to raise the graduation rate through new pathways to success, individualized teaching methods, credit recovery opportunities, examining grading policies and early interventions for struggling students.
Halloran said high school administrators have already done a lot of work to address graduation rates that have slowly climbed for the past few years, reaching 69 percent for the 2017-18 school year as of June, ahead of summer school when the rate could climb as high as 73 percent.
“They understand the importance of raising the graduation rate,” Halloran said. “They are proactive in their approach to engaging kids, I hope to build off of that. While coming to the board meetings this spring I was happy to see that at risk students are at the top their to do list, to constantly work on ways to engage those students and their families to get them across the stage.”
New teaching models like those currently offered through the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Pathways in Technology Early College High School, which saw the inaugural class graduate in June, have created new paths for students who simultaneously earn their high school diploma and associate degree at no cost to their families.
PTECH is targeted towards students who might not otherwise consider attending college and features a project-based curriculum teaching students professional skills.
“I think as educators it’s our duty to help students break perceived barriers,” Halloran said.
HFM PTECH launched in 2014 and allows incoming freshman to choose from one of four pathways including business management and administration, advanced manufacturing, information and technology and health sciences.
This fall GESD and the Greater Johnstown School District will open Foothills PTECH to 80 incoming freshman from the two districts with curriculum focused on the medical arts and sciences or the digital gaming industry.
“The world has changed an awful lot and there definitely seems to be a gap between what education is preparing kids for and what we’re hearing from industry, what skills they’re looking for. I think the PTECH programs and similar models across the country are trying to bridge that divide,” Halloran said. “It’s exciting the opportunities that these students will have.”
Halloran would like to see these student focused and individualized teaching models expanded so that struggling students and even advanced students get the attention they need to flourish.
“I think Gloversville has a lot of room for improvement and it would be very gratifying to look back at my time here and be certain that I made a difference, that should translate into hundreds and hundreds of students graduating,” Halloran said.