The halls of the six buildings in the Katonah-Lewisboro school district will be abuzz with students Wednesday morning, but on Tuesday, excitement was already mounting as teachers and administrators gathered for Superintendent’s Day.
It was shortened into an abbreviated morning program to give teachers as much time as possible to prepare for opening day. Power outages caused by Tropical Storm Irene left teachers like Holly Kellogg—who planned to unpack art supplies at the high school as soon as the presentations were over—scrambling to ready classrooms.
Sean Murphy, a veteran educator of 19 years, said he had a few jitters.
“The first three weeks are harder than the next 37,” said the middle school special education teacher. “There’s a lot of minutiae involved in getting things done in the beginning, including a lot of communication with parents and getting students used to new routines.”
Students aren’t the only ones adjusting to changes this year.
“We have a new principal, a new superintendent, a new special services director and we’re implementing RTI (response to intervention)—there’s a lot going on,” said Susan Hirsch, a resource room teacher at Katonah Elementary School. “But it’s exciting. Today is all about setting the tone and and the first few weeks are all about building relationships.”
Teachers heard a presentation on the new teacher evaluation system that will be rolled out this year for teachers (and their principals) in grades 4 – 8, then filed into the high school auditorium for the superintendent’s address, delivered for the first time by Paul Kreutzer.
Kreutzer, hired last spring amid teacher union protests, tried to shed any remaining controversy over his appointment, and urged teachers to shift their attention from any spotlight he had attracted toward students and the year ahead.
“I’ve been the center of attention,” he said to a packed auditorium. “You can find me pretty handily on Google, I’ve been in the New York Times and in GQ and on the internet more times than I care to be.”
He shared an anecdote about an event that occurred during his senior year of high school, when he defended a boy with special needs, named George, from another student named Dewey, who was bullying him. At the time, Kreutzer shouted at the bully, diverting attention from George to himself. It worked—his fellow seniors also called out their support and left George alone. But instead of praising his actions, an administrator who witnessed the incident criticized Kreutzer for not helping sooner.
“My attitude changed that day. Had I always had the power to make a difference?” he asked. “We must do our jobs exceedingly well—how many Georges, Dewey’s might we meet? I’ve been the center of attention—but we need to divest it from ourselves and move it our children.”
He said his hope for the year was that they would all grow and share together as a family, and expressed a shared pride over the work the teachers accomplish.
“It’s going to be an exceptional year,” he said. “And if you have a George moment, standing alone doing the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons—I’ll have your back.”
The program included a district tradition—”the bowl ceremony,” in which teachers and staff with 25 years of service are recognized. This year, Linda Bodkin, Catherine Miller, Enid Linden, Pat Rappaport and Marion Perri were honored.
Jim Panzer, a high school physics teacher who had yet to unpack lab equipment in his classroom, said he was motivated by Kreutzer’s words.
“I liked how he related his past to the work we do here,” he said. “I’m also excited to see the kids tomorrow—they are what makes this district the best place to work.”