The area's three new school superintendents face several challenges as they take the reins of their districts this fall, including new teacher evaluations and the normal budget constraints.
The newly-named area superintendents are: Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Michael B. Vanyo, Wheelerville Union Free School District Superintendent Richard Ruberti Jr., and Wells Central School District Superintendent Thomas Sincavage.
Vanyo served as superintendent for the Liberty Central School District in Sullivan County, and replaces interim Gloversville Superintendent Clifford Moses. The interim position was needed after Robert DeLilli left the Gloversville school district in August 2011 to become the Greater Johnstown School District superintendent.
Ruberti, a Gloversville native who lives in Mayfield, previously served as Ballston Spa Middle School co-principal. He replaces interim Wheelerville Superintendent Harry Brooks. Ruberti permanently replaces former Wheelerville Superintendent David Carr, who resigned in February.
Sincavage was the principal of Canajoharie Middle School and his district's curriculum coordinator. He replaces interim Wells Superintendent John Zeis, who led that district the last two school years.
Ruberti will take over a pre-kindergarten through grade eight Wheelerville school with 14 teachers. He mentioned two initiatives he will be involved in immediately.
"This coming school year there will be new evaluations for teachers," he stated. "That's a huge change."
Ruberti was referring to the state Education Department's new Annual Professional Performance Review evaluations. He said teachers with tenure, who previously didn't have to be evaluated for long periods of time, will be scrutinized more.
New York state will be implementing a new teacher and principal evaluation system designed to help improve student performance and enhance accountability. Evaluation plans are negotiated at the local level consistent with state requirements and standards.
Ruberti said the new APPR involves each classroom and will be conducted two or three times a school year. He said teachers will be evaluated on a 100 percent point system, looking at areas such as observation and growth. He said the APPR also will isolate problem areas.
"They target their instruction at those deficiencies," the superintendent said.
Starting this school year, the Wheelerville district also will strengthen its ties with the Greater Johnstown School District. Graduating Wheelerville students attend Johnstown High School as ninth graders through a transfer agreement.
"I'd like to follow the cohort of the kids," Ruberti said. "I'd like to track them."
He said he's already talked to DeLilli about tracking the Wheelerville students as they progress through JHS, especially to determine if they're staying in school. He said the analysis also will satisfy data-driven instruction requirements.
"I'd like to see how our kids are doing during the course of [their high school] years," Ruberti said.
The Wheelerville district in August also brought in literacy and math specialists to help monitor the progress of its students, he said.
Ruberti said he also has plans for an initiative that will include rewarding students for being good citizens. He said that type of activity was done at the town of Caroga school years ago.
"I have a lot of plans for character education," Ruberti said. "It creates an overall school culture that rewards positive behavior."
At Wells Central School, Sincavage this summer joins a district that has fewer than 20 students in each grade, but a graduation rate higher than 85 percent the past six years, including 95 percent the last school year.
"We'll be forming a very strong educational community," Sincavage said.
Like Ruberti, Sincavage mentioned the new teacher evaluations, which will impact Wells' 28 teachers.
"The big thing I'm focusing on is the APPR," Sincavage said. "It has eaten up all my time."
Sincavage last week indicated the district was still negotiating with the Wells faculty's union about certain elements of the APPR and the district Board of Education will eventually sign off on the evaluation format.
"We're about 99 percent there," the superintendent stated.
Otherwise, Sincavage said, he is bringing his strengths in instruction and assessment from the Canajoharie district to the Wells district.
"I feel I was pretty successful in Canajoharie," he said. "Putting the child first, among all other things, is our biggest challenge."
Some of the logistical difficulties the Wells district faces annually, Sincavage said, include transportation.
For example, the district has to bus students 40 minutes every day to the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services center in Johnstown.
Sincavage said the Wells school building is in "good shape" and he didn't immediately mention any possible imminent capital projects.
Meanwhile, he said, the Wells district faces the usual state budget constraints and dwindling aid problems that many school districts face.
"It's extremely tight," Sincavage said of the budget. "The teachers haven't had a raise in two years."
Vanyo couldn't be reached for comment on this story.
In a July interview and story in The Leader-Herald, it was noted he would meet with Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education members five times this summer to discuss priorities and challenges in the district. The goal of these meetings was to ensure the new superintendent is developing solutions to problems in the school system, officials said.
The school board will set goals, frame problems to be resolved and combine its information with Vanyo's before the start of the 2012-13 school year, school officials said.