Michael Hynes, superintendent of schools in Patchogue, Long Island, in New York, has a new idea: Let’s forget about the politicians and do what we know is best for students. Hynes is hereby declared a hero of public education for truly putting children first.
The Greater Patchogue website reports that Superintendent Hynes is working with the school board and a committee of 65 to forge a better path for the Patchogue-Medford schools. Hynes’ motto is “leave no stone unturned.”
Hynes, who has been an outspoken supporter of the opt out movement, said:
“If we want to stay on the same road and be average and settle for mediocrity, then we’re not going to turn over every stone,” Hynes said in his first in-depth media interview about the plan. “But if you really want to bring this place to another level for our kids, then what you need to do is make sure you look at everything humanly possible that’s going to benefit all of our students.”
“He looks to the positive growth of Patchogue Village as inspiration, explaining how the village’s leaders had a clear goal of what they wanted to accomplish, and though there was some pushback, once people started seeing real results, then even doubters began to buy in.
“Hynes indicated some drastic changes will be explored, and with that, there could be pushback.
“The hardest part will be holding onto our old mental models, or thoughts and feelings of how schools should be,” he said. “Because the one common experience we all have is we all went to school, and there are a lot of emotions attached to that. Many people think that it should stay the same.
“I think some things should remain the same, but with some things, because of time and because of the way things are, we need to think differently, and we need to be progressive. And that’s what I’m hoping this plan becomes. But it also needs to be inclusive and collaborative.”
“Pressed for details, Hynes mentioned the possibility of reconfiguring the district elementary schools so that they’re no longer K-5 schools drawing students from the immediate neighborhoods. The schools would instead be grouped by grade through what’s called a Princeton Plan, or Princeton Model.
“He noted that Princeton Plans are often proposed in districts that are looking to close a school.
“If its sole purpose is to save money, I don’t believe in it,” he said. “If you move to a different construct because it’s best for kids, and allows teachers to meet more often, to collaborate, to serve kids in a higher and more efficient way, then that’s a model we need to look at. That doesn’t meant adopt, but at least investigate and research it.”
“The district could examine freeing up a building for vocational opportunities, he said.
Hynes explained that, currently, students who might be looking toward the trades or the military, as opposed to college, aren’t offered resources within the district to pursue those interests until the twelfth grade.
“For us, we want to start providing those opportunities in ninth grade,” he said. “Right now we’re missing out on three extremely vital years.”
“A vocational school would allow Patchogue-Medford to offer trade skills from plumbing to hairdressing to paralegal work, he said.
“These are professions where people are making a good living,” Hynes said. “The caveat is, it would have to include a one-year internship program through the Patchogue and Medford areas, and that’s where a relationship with the larger community comes into play.”
“As for the district’s higher-achievers, Hynes said there are opportunities for them to be challenged even further, such as through a Geneva-based International Baccalaureate program.
“We’re already looking at the feasibility of that,” he said. “It’s an investment, not only in resources but it’s actually an investment in our educators, because they have to be trained as well.”
With special education and English language-learners, Hynes said there could be more of an emphasis on before and after school opportunities, outside of the students’ core academic work, that could help them socialize within the wider communities more effectively.
“Asked about whether spending would need to increase under the strategic plan, and if the district would consider bonding, Hynes replied as follows:
“You want to do whatever is necessary to accomplish what needs to be done. When we look at cost, we’re going to look at investment and return on the investment, and if the return on the investment is worth it, then anything is possible as far as I’m concerned…..
“Asked how the plan could operate within the state’s mandates, including its across-the-board educational standards, Hynes — an outspoken critic of recent education reform efforts in Albany — said he must do now whatever he believes is in the long-term interests of Patchogue-Medford students — not wait for Albany to figure its own policies out.
“If this plan comes to the place where I think it can, I would like the state to exempt us from 3 through 8 testing, and allow us to evaluate teachers on our own accord, based on our professional judgements, and assess students in a much better way,” Hynes said.
“Then we can possibly use this as a case study for other districts in New York State, to see if this is a possibility for them to — I don’t want to say emulate, but to look into and make it their own.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before.”
Superintendent Michael Hynes is already a member of the blog’s honor roll.