By Connor Linskey
The Valley Central School District has announced that the high school will move to a co-principal model beginning Feb. 1.
Valley Central Middle School Principal Russell Burns and Valley Central High School Assistant Principal Michael Conklin have been named co-principals. In this leadership model, the two principals will run the high school with the help of two assistant principals. Philip Rodriguez and Allison Simoskevich will maintain their positions as assistant principals.
Each co-principal will have responsibilities that are unique to them as well as shared ones. Burns will focus on the ninth and tenth grade. He will work on improving students’ social emotional learning and will give special attention to mental health issues caused by COVID-19. Conklin will take the lead on the eleventh and twelfth grade house. This house will focus on college and career preparedness along with increased collaboration with local businesses and increased opportunities for students.
Conklin was appointed, as he has been one of the assistant principals at the high school and is familiar with its workings. Burns has known the ninth and tenth grade students since they were in the sixth grade. In addition, the middle school has been in training for social emotional cultural responsive education longer than any other schools in the district.
In order to not leave the middle school in a deficit by moving Burns, the decision was made to move Jayme Ginda-Baxter, the principal of the high school, to the middle school. The middle school will continue to have an experienced administrator as its principal.
Research shows that having co-principals works well. Linda Nathan, EdD is the co-founder and co-director of the Perrone-Sizer Institute for Creative Leadership, a year-long graduate certificate program that develops innovative leaders who integrate education, artistic and community-based resources to transform the lives of youth and families. She is also a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she teaches courses on school design and school observation. Nathan has served as a co-principal and had a positive experience.
“The co-principalship model offers one way to change the paradigm,” she said. “Over the years, I have had successful co-principalships with two different individuals. I learned early on that two heads are better than one.”
Nathan added that the job of a school principal is demanding and is done better by more than one person.
“Unreasonable mandates… budget cuts .... competing time demands… lack of student equity and access,” she said. “To fight and win the many battles of the principalship, you can’t go it alone.”
“COVID-19 has changed the educational landscape more than anything we have experienced before. The creation of this model ensures that Valley Central is proactively addressing the varied and increased needs of all students,” said Marianne Serratore, the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.
The district feels that this is the best time for a transition. Mid-year is the time period when school districts begin making extensive plans for the upcoming school year. This includes scheduling, program modifications, staffing, training, building projects and summer school. The board of education has faith the co-principals will do well.
“We believe Valley Central has a strong administrative team that will work together, utilizing their unique individual strengths and talents to best serve all of the students in the Valley Central community,” said Arthur Fitzgerald, a member of the Valley Central School District Board of Education.