New Wallkill Valley superintendent lays out agenda

| 28 Jul 2014 | 01:12

    HAMBURG — Wallkill Valley Regional High School interim Superintendent Robert Walker gave his first monthly report to the Board of Education on Tuesday, July 22, taking 45 minutes to outline 13 potential changes to the school.

    A retired Superintendent from Kittatinny Regional High School, Walker knows a few things about running a successful school. While the Superintedent at Kittatinny, the school was given the prestigious “Blue Ribbon” Schools award, one of only 166 schools chosen in America during that time. After his retirement from Kittatinny in 2007, the high school named its newly-constructed junior high wing after him.

    Stepping in as superintendent at Wallkill, Walker seems vigilant and right at home to make changes to improve the school

    “I would like to recommend to the board the “LAW” academy, or Learning at Wallkill, which will teach the teachers things they may not know," Walker said. "It would be a great way to keep teachers abreast of everything from best practices, if they don’t know PowerPoint or some new technique with a computer. Maybe I’ll even take it some time. That is the best way to keep your staff tuned up."

    Walker went on to discuss that the classes would be an hour long and run by either teachers of the school and experts in the subject manner. Teachers would be paid $42 an hour, something that may need to be negotiated, and, tentatively, after 8 hours of teaching, they would receive a professional day.

    Plans to gut the back of the library for PARCC testing are in full effect, and the electrician has set up what needs to be done.

    “We have to PARCC test hundreds of kids at one time so we have 125 i5 computers that just came in and they will be put back there to test, as well as to run the (LAW) academy. We will make good use of all the space we have here,” Walker said.

    With a newly hired auto shop teacher, Walker wanted to make sure the classroom was safe and clean, with the possibility of some new equipment.

    “Maintenance cleaned out almost two Dumpsters of steel from the auto shop," Walker said. "We put up a smart board so the students will be able to take diagnostics, painted the room, and laid out new security tape. We are hoping to obtain some 4-cylinder engines, by donation, because what we have has been used many times and are old. One of the two lifts in the shop is going to get evaluated, as it is rather dated. It may need to be scrapped.

    Around the interior of the school, staff and students will notice a few fresh new changes. Carpets have been shampooed, new security cameras installed, partitions and wheelchair accessibility in bathrooms are being evaluated, and lighting in the main hallways has changed to LED.

    “The bulbs give double the amount of light and are half the cost. We didn’t repaint the school, we just lit it up better," Walker said.

    When it comes to the outside of the school, Walker plans to fix some outdoor poles, evaluating the emergency generator’s old age, and turning some old bleachers into money.

    “We have old, obsolete aluminum bleachers that the Farm and Horse Show will take and sell for scrap. In turn, they will give us a $500 donation to go toward a scholarship for a student,” Walker said.

    According to the Head of Maintenance Bobby Carroll, the emergency generator will need to be replaced in the next few years. Old age is a contributor to this, but a recent storm has left the generator continuously overheating.

    “Another problem is that it is diesel-fuel and the smell comes right back into the building. If we had a gas-fed generator, we might not have this problem,” said Walker.

    After a sweltering graduation inside the gym, Walker is looking into the existing air system in the school and the potential to run the duct work into the gymnasium to cool the gym.

    With curriculum his final report, Walker personally will evaluate outside placement students.

    “We spend over a million dollars in placement of kids and I am not sure that is best for the kids and best for Wallkill," Walker said. "We might be able to do something right here as well as they are doing in their placements."

    With the weight of the PARCC testing on everyone’s shoulders, Walker recommended the elimination of mid-term exams.

    “All of this testing eliminates instruction time. Instead, I’d prefer if teachers evaluate their own students each quarter instead,” said Walker.

    With a list enough to make anyone’s head spin, Walker confidently completed his report and Board Member Edward Card was quick to make a statement.

    “I thought your report was comprehensive and I really enjoyed hearing the ins and outs of what’s happening. So thank you very much,” Card said.

    Nori Prayer, from Franklin, emotionally stated her thoughts.

    “This is the first time I can honestly say (the public) got any communication about what’s going on in the school… it’s been great,” Prayer said.

    With everyone happy to hear a thorough report, Walker stated what he has learned over his many years in education.

    “Listen to people, whether it is the people in the audience or the people that work for you. Listen to them and pay attention to what they are saying,” Walker said.

    While Prayer urged Walker to consider a permanent position as Superintendent at Wallkill, state law states that a retired administrator may work as an interim for up to two years in the same district while simultaneously collecting a pension.