2015-03-04 / Editorials

Editorial: MCS Superintendent should live in the community

Margaretville Central School district residents and taxpayers will have an opportunity this evening (Wednesday, March 4) to meet the candidates being considered for the post of school district superintendent. Here’s a question that each candidate should face:
“If selected for this post, will you live in our district? “
Here is why the answer matters.
To really be an effective leader, one must live among the people being led. For a school superintendent, immersion in community life is really the only way to truly understand the circumstances that impact the day-to-day lives of the students being taught, of the teachers teaching them, and of the taxpayers footing the bill.
To achieve maximum effectiveness, a school superintendent must be engaged in the community, creating networks that will support the educational mission. The school leader needs to be working cooperatively with other institutions such as the hospital, the business associations, religious and social welfare leaders, and perhaps even the first responders in community emergencies. That engagement does not occur when a school leader lives far from the district being led.

Invested in the community
A superintendent who owns a home in the community served shares the tax burden of others when a budget or a capital project is put up for a vote. In rural districts like ours, the school leader is one of the highest paid professionals working within the community. It sends a terribly negative message when the superintendent takes that salary elsewhere to spend; when a superintendent’s actions say, “I don’t mind working here but this is not a community where I want to live.”
Roxbury’s Tom O’Brien, currently the area’s longest tenur­ed school leader, is a prime example of these principles in action. Since arriving in the district as its principal in 2002, O’Brien has been fully engaged. He lives in the community, raised his children there and has a vested interest in the success of both the school and the community. O’Brien has used his expertise as a member of the Margaretville Hospital Board, a member of the Greater Roxbury Business Association, and as an EMT in the community, in addition to being a member of the Belleayre Ski Patrol. O’Brien has had a long and generally successfully tenure and though he might not be universally adored, his commitment to the community cannot be questioned.

Good to be close
A school superintendent who was raised in this area put it this way: “The soft skills ARE the hard skills.  The superintendent who becomes involved as a community volunteer models the attributes that will give students real career and college readiness skills. Proximity makes it easier to balance the 24/7 nature of the job.  Having to travel even as few as 20 minutes one way steals precious moments whether with colleagues or with family.”
To its credit, the MCS Board of Education did list residency in this or in an adjacent district as a hiring priority. Now district residents should drive the point home. If you want to lead our district, come and live among us.
— Publisher Dick Sanford

Return to top