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National conference of superintendents being hosted by Questar III Boces, Coxsackie-Athens Central Schools this week

STEM Students
Questar III
Students in STEM educational programs

Superintendents from school districts across the country are gathering for a conference this week in our region.

The American Association of School Administrators Transformational Leadership Consortium is a three-day program designed to help school district administrators scale successful educational models.

Superintendent Randy Squier says Coxsackie-Athens is one of 13 districts recognized by AASA as a "Lighthouse School District" for its Learning 2025 Initiative.

"We're a district that is future directed, future focused, making sure that we are providing the program supports necessary for our kids to be successful in the future, especially after the pandemic," Squier said. "And so, that's one reason, and also that we're also a member of the transformational leadership consortium. And that's a cohort of school leaders across the country, who all are vested in creating transformative programming instruction and opportunities in their schools. And so we host various site visits, you know, one or two a year, and they asked if C.A. could be one of the hosts."

The program includes site visits to Coxsackie-Athens CSD, Questar III’s Robert H. Gibson Technical School, and the Questar III and HVCC STEM High School.

Questar III District Superintendent and AASA president-elect Gladys Cruz says the pandemic played a key role in shifting education to further embrace technology.

“We have been doing these things prior to the pandemic, I have to say," said Cruz. "Tech Valley High School is, has always been, a one-to-one school, where students, as they enter, they get a laptop, and they use their laptop as their book. Coxsackie-Athens Central School District is also a one-to-one school, but the pandemic really forced many schools to really take advantage of these technologies. We were fortunate, I would say that Valley High School is a school that made a transition very easily, because as part of their, their calendar every year, they have a virtual base. So you know, when we had to change to being completely virtual, or remote, in March 2020, these students had already practiced that and they were ready to do so, they had the tools in their hands. “

Squier notes several themes are being addressed during the gathering that reflect opportunities his small rural school offers students as it "looks to break from the traditional approach of schooling and education," including 35 college courses.

"Many of our students graduate with 24 or more credits, college credits, and we have an advanced manufacturing pathways that allows kids to experience many of the technologies that they might see in many of our regional manufacturing centers, whether it's learning how to use Haas CNC equipment, you know, and other metal manufacturing type equipment that often results in the kids fabricating go karts, for example, which they can get to time trial race on our go kart track, which we have on campus," Squier said. "Our students are involved in making our own theatre production equipment. We also have a robust science department that includes environmental science. We have bees, we have several beehives, and so the kids produce honey and lip balm from the bees, which they then turn around and sell within the community.”

Squier adds the elementary school STEM program offers a wide range of subjects from robotics to an "aqua lab" where students can grow coral and exotic fish.

AASA's senior associate executive director Mort Sherman says the conference evolved from a digital consortium, which today includes 120 school districts, involving digital learning or technology focused on leadership and how can leaders improve what they do for students.

“We bring districts from across the country to learn locally about how we could address some of the most significant issues, whether it's being forward focused, that is in Randy's district, or how we work with our communities that that is in other districts," Sherman said. "This initiative is to do site visits, to learn from one another and then go back to districts across the country and say, ‘OK, I visited Randy Squier’s district and now I'm trying to figure out how we could take those kernels of nuggets and bring it back to my own district.’ And so we use the visits like this, and particularly remarkable districts such as Randy's, as an exemplar for the rest of the country. “

Sherman says AASA is the “premier association for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the U.S. and across the world,” serving as "the national voice for public education and district leadership."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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