Marlboro Superintendent Michael Brooks moderated his final School Board meeting last week that was held in the new music room at the Middle School.
Brooks sat down with the Southern Ulster Times for his last interview before his retirement becomes official at the end of August.
Brooks has worked closely with incoming Superintendent Michael Rydell to ensure a smooth transition, “so that we’re in the right place with staffing and that we’re all set and there are no surprises for him in September.”
Brooks said he is proud that “this district is very focused on children and children’s needs and I liked trying to continue to rally that focus and that for me is like the Rubrik’s cube. When a problem is presented, there are a thousand different reasons why any one particular solution is the right solution, but you’ve got to turn the Rubrik’s cube so that it all lines up and works. There are so many facets to this world of education, and New York State is onerous in rules and regulations and [we’re] trying our best to decipher whatever comes out of Albany so that we maintain as much of our local needs as possible and comply, but do what we need to do here.”
Brooks said the most immediate challenge he faced when he came to Marlboro was to stabilize the finances of the district in the wake of the power plant bankruptcy. As a result, the district was later able to take on the $19 million Vision 2020 project that included significant upgrades and new construction within the district’s three buildings. Also during his tenure, Brooks along with many other Ulster County Superintendents, was able to compel the state to provide an equitable amount of Foundation aid to the district’s across the state. The aid Marlboro had been receiving was at 53% but by the end of the 2022-23 school year Marlboro will be at 100%.
Brooks is proud of the energy performance contract that Marlboro made through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority [NYSERDA]. He said he would have liked to have had this in place before retiring but is pleased that it will be completed under his successor.
“We’re doing a lot of lighting, some exterior door work, a lot at the high school, redoing the HVAC system at the Elementary school, all to tighten up the envelope so you get less heat loss,” he said. “It’s almost $8 million in work that is literally costing us nothing. So between aid and the guaranteed energy cost savings, it pays for the entire bond.”
Brooks said the district will also be installing some solar arrays at the high school as part of this project. He noted that the district has been working on this project for more than 3 years, “and finally got it put in place and set in contract about a year ago and then you have to go through all of the state design approvals. It really kicked off in earnest after this year’s graduation and it will take another year to finish.”
Brooks said this is a fantastic program that will result in significant energy savings in the coming years.
Brooks said the Student Resource Officer [SRO] program is strong and has been in place all of the years he has been in Marlboro, starting initially in the high school and later added to the middle and elementary schools. There is an armed officer in each school for the entire school day. Brooks said every time shooting hits the news, “it is a nightmare for every school administrator. It’s chilling.”
In retirement, Brooks said he and his wife would like to travel, calling it “high on the list.” But, ultimately, he is looking forward to “changing my pace. I don’t mind getting up at 5 in the morning but I would like to not have time matter. My schedule is so regimented and the job of Superintendent is a 24/7, 365 day job. It doesn’t matter if you’re on vacation because if there is an emergency that they need the Superintendent for, you pick up the phone no matter what; it is what it is. So getting used to turning that piece of me off will take a little time, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with my daughters, more time with my wife, more time with friends”
Brooks laughs when asked what he is going to do come September.
“I want my life to not be so regimented and planned and even have the time to sit down and read a book,” he said. “I’m still young and healthy and I’m ready to go and enjoy whatever it is.”
Brooks feels he is leaving Marlboro in a better place than when he arrived.
“I did an awful lot. Our graduation rate has improved by 9 points over seven years. In June of 2021, 96% of our graduating seniors got a Regents diploma and when I started it was 87%. The teachers worked hard for that and the kids worked hard for that and kept themselves laser focused on getting it right. What you take in school, how hard you work, does alter your diploma [and] if you have good people supporting and helping you on that path, you’ll end up in a better place.”
Brooks offered a closing remark.
“It’s been a fantastic pleasure and honor of mine to serve the community and the children to the best of my ability. I thank them. It’s been a wonderful run,” he said.