"For me the transition has been great," said Dr. Frank Alvarez from his office on Theodore Fremd Avenue. "It's a wonderful community. It's very clear that people here have very high expectations."
in his position as superintendent of Rye City Schools for just over two months, after 9 years in Montclair, New Jersey.
During those weeks, he talked with lots of community stakeholders to learn what makes the Rye City school district tick.
"There's a lot of guarded pride about the great tradition of what Rye is. It seems like everybody knows everybody else in Rye," said Alvarez.
As a result of that networking, Alvarez said he has identified three major thrusts for the district's goals this academic year: increasing academic rigor, individualizing programs based on student needs and improving outreach "so that the community knows what we're doing."
"There's a great sense of the community really wanting to strive for educational excellence," said Alvarez. "Part of what "I've done over last couple of weeks and at the board retreat [earlier this summer] was identify goals for district. Student achievement is at the core of what we do. As part of our focus on academic rigor, we will be [focused on creating] classrooms that are student learning centered."
Relatedly, Alvarez said he is also concerned with addressing some cultural factors affecting student performance, specifically alleviating student pressure generated by the high expectation environment.
"Students as early as third grade are feeling pressured [about standardized tests]," said the superintendent. "There's no reason for a third grader to be stressed out about test scores."
Alvarez said he'll be working with teachers, parents and other administrators to create a supportive environment for students at school and at home. "You have to take the totality of experience into account rather than isolating whether you're successful on one indicator."
He said it will be important to keep the community connected and better informed about district initiatives and their schools. To accomplish that, he said there has already been outreach to community organizations like Rye Youth Council. "What we're trying to do is be more intentional. Instead of running different programs, we're going to try to have the elementary schools run the same programs and create a consistent vocabulary throughout the district about these issues."
Taking the issue of hazing on directly, Alvarez said, "We're trying to look at these issues, whether hazing, bullying, intimidation or harassment as something all school districts are dealing with. We own a part of it, but we want to think of it broadly."
In keeping with the district's larger focus on social responsibility, the district's ongoing response to such matters will be encompassed in compliance to the recently enacted throughout the state. "We're also streamlining the district code of conduct to make it more user-friendly for all."
"We're really not going to tolerate any of these incidents anymore," said Alvarez about hazing. "We want to be supportive of students, but we also want to send a clear message. It's also going to take more than the schools. We’ll be collaborating with a number of organizations to make sure this happens."
Following the interview, Rye City School district issued a statement specifically addressing last June'
Last June's incident underscores the need for the entire Rye community to ensure that inappropriate (and allegedly criminal) behaviors of young people are never downplayed, dismissed, or tolerated. We believe that for its part, the school district must continue to play a leadership role that will result in the reinforcement of character, kindness, and compassion.
The District is working with other groups within Rye to address this community-wide concern and to develop a plan for the 2012-13 school year. Our initiatives, which we will continue to share updates and details on throughout the next several months, include the following:
- Re-visitation of policies and the Code of Conduct to present critical issues to students in an age-appropriate, understandable manner
- Extra training for coaches and athletes to promote good sportsmanship and positive behavior
- Implementation of social responsibility programs in the schools
- Professional development throughout the year to encourage support for all students, while enforcing the message that negative behaviors such as bullying and other violations to the Code of Conduct will not be tolerated
- Participation in community dialogues and meetings surrounding this issue