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Schalmont striving for "even better" in 2016-17 as teachers, staff return to work

Sept. 7, 2016

Superintendent Carol Pallas and Schalmont Board of Education President Michael Pasquarella welcomed new and returning teachers and staff to a new school year during opening day on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

picture of Schalmont Board of Education president

In her opening day remarks, Superintendent Pallas focused on two distinct, yet related themes: getting better at getting better and teamwork.

"It's more important than ever to work collaboratively as educators toward the common outcome of improved student achievement," she said.

Superintendent Pallas compared the Olympic athletes who competed in Rio this summer and the work that educators do throughout the school year. "I was inspired watching the games, and seeing what the athletes do as individuals and as part of a team," she said. "It made me think of two parallels to our work as educators; that of always striving to get better and working together as a team to support one another and our students."

In keeping with the sports analogy, she also showed a clip from the movie Miracle about the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team that against all odds defeated a heavily favored Soviet team to win the gold medal.

"There is a great quote in the movie by (head coach) Herb Brooks, who says: 'The name on the front (of the jersey) is a lot more important than the name on the back.' Like every member of that hockey team, everyone's role here is important to educating students -- from the cleaning staff to bus drivers to facilities and maintenance crew to aides, monitors lunch staff, teachers, administrators and the superintendent," she said. "We all play on a team with the same main objective -- to help our children successfully learn, graduate and pursue a career path that sustains them in an ever-changing world. We are not here for ourselves as individuals, we are here for the students and the community of Schalmont."

picture of Superintendent Carol Pallas

Superintendent Pallas also referenced the book, "What Spins the Wheel" in which the author, Len Forkas, competed in one of the world's toughest endurance events: Race Across America, a 3,000-mile solo bike race that requires participants to ride coast-to-coast in 12 days, and what it taught him about the power of teamwork. The book describes how Forkas' team was constantly forced to adapt to ever-present changes to their well-thought out plans along the often grueling course. The author emphasized the importance of the team focusing on outcomes and the role each person played in meeting them toward the path to success.

"He found that being vulnerable should not be a sign of weakness but actually a sign of strength because asking for help shows an interest in getting better," Superintendent Pallas told the teachers. "His experience pushed him to an uncomfortable place where he made the willing choice to grow. The fear of failure can hold us back unless we have a secure feeling that we are part of a team that can support us as we learn and grow."

Superintendent Pallas looked to the year ahead and the challenges Schalmont educators will confront collectively, including:

  • Improving state test results
  • Tackling budget/financial needs that will become more and more difficult to meet and sustain
  • Adapting for a declining enrollment and a changing demographic
  • Navigating change toward becoming a truly focused 21st century learning environment for today's students, while existing in yesterday’s factory-model school system
  • Continuing to integrate new and emerging technologies into teaching

While the majority of her remarks centered on the first goal in Schalmont's strategic plan -- accelerating academic success -- Superintendent Pallas concluded by addressing her excitement for the new school year.

"We have many strong initiatives happening in our district, and I am excited about all that we are doing presently and what the future holds," she said. "I look forward to our continued work together as a team of educators striving for the common goal of success for all our students. We are Schalmont … that means a lot to me, and I hope it means a lot to you. I wish you the best year ever!"