It is an absolute pleasure to be serving as Interim Superintendent for Pelham School District.  I never expected to end my career in education administration in the district in which it began almost 20 years ago. The connections are deep and the ties are personal. For example, Pelham Middle School teacher Billy Beauchene was a student when I was a Vice-principal at PMS. 

Recently, when I took one of my first walks around the schools after the Board hired me, it was a chuckle to come upon the stone for the “Dennis Goyette Athletic Field.” Dennis was my principal and mentor at PMS and both he and his wife Patricia, who I worked with in Hollis remain friends. So, here I am, again.  I am honored to be a part of the Pelham School District circle of life.

As it is anywhere that I have had the pleasure to address the people who do the intrinsic work of education, those who work directly with students, I have to begin this year by thanking you for being here. And I thank everyone else as well who makes each building run smoothly each day for you to do your jobs. There is so much to do in so little time each year that we lose sight of expressing the appreciation that we should have for one another.

Of course, I’m technically new, so let me step back to help share my vision for the upcoming school year. I am here for the next ten months to support the terrific work already happening in Pelham.  I am not here to rewrite the rule book, to be an agent of major change or to somehow revolutionize the work done in this district. There is an outstanding team in place, so I will continue the legacy left to this point by my predecessor.  Progress will not stop, nor will it ever stop, but I am here to help in the smooth transition to a permanent superintendent. We will address challenges and we will build on our progress.

We all have different jobs here but together these jobs weave the fabric of the educational experience of each student who passes through our schools. It is important that we understand that we are all dependent upon each other. This interdependence is the full educational experience of our students. What happens in our hallways and classrooms affects what happens in the principal’s office and at home, which in turn affects what happens at the SAU and ultimately what comes to the School Board. So, we are all interconnected and interdependent. Quite literally, we are all on the same team. Each of us has our individual position or role on our team, and each of us has a process to follow to complete our individual task. To further support that effort, we come together in small specialized teams to do things that impact more students on a different level. There are data teams, referral teams, curriculum teams, and so on that make team decisions on behalf of students. Ultimately, we can look at our individual roles and our specialized team roles as being the internal workings of the larger team, the team of all of us together, making progress toward the ultimate goal of getting each student across the graduation platform, our team’s finish line, and successfully onward into life out there.

I’m a firm believer that teamwork at every level is the best way to get things done. We all have our individual jobs to do and we need to do them well to reach our team collective goal. Ours is a pre-K through grade 12 team. As a Pelham school district team member, each of us is working toward a singular goal of successfully achieving a high school diploma for every student. As a team member, I have my place in the order of things and there I will “do my job” to the best of my ability. I know that by doing that, more students will be more successful and this big team of people from Pre-k through grade 12 will have a better chance of achieving its singular team goal of success for every student. This team includes everyone from those who feed us and those who make our buildings clean and safe, to those who transfer knowledge and care for the minds of our students directly, to those who make sure that people are paid and everyone has what they need to do their job.

In leaving my prior district, I was given many tokens of appreciation and each one has a special meaning to me. But I have to share with you the one that spoke most personally to me. As my former staffs have learned as the years past, all I ever asked of anyone was to do their job and do it to the best of their ability. If something tripped up, we examined what happened without blame and put a process in place to see that it didn’t happen again, and every year we grew better at what we did. Along the way, I’d mention now and then how I admired Patriot’s Coach, Bill Belichick, because he is the quintessential do-your-job process person. He has built a winning machine based upon the mantra of “we can always do better,” as the bottom line. The Patriots never rest on their laurels. They are not over confident. They begin every season at square one. They assess themselves as individuals, special teams, and full team to determine down to the minutia what needs work. Then they drill the stuff that needs work and they don’t stop.  They are never done. They can always improve, and I believe that that is how we must approach our jobs in school systems if we want to continuously improve as well.

So, my former administrative assistant wrote a letter to Bill Belichick and told him about me, how I followed his example of refocusing everyone to do their job and embark on a never-ending process of improvement. She asked him for a token of his leadership style for me. So, he sent this to her (show picture) a personalized, signed picture of himself at work on the field and she framed it and gave it to me as a parting gift. I have hung it on the wall next to the desk in my office, because he’s right. If we all focused on getting better at our individual jobs, came together in our special teams to review our performance and continually improve our practices, and always focused intensely on our greater goal from within our place in the larger team, our kids would be soaring to new heights every year.

We must all strive for that self-discipline, that dedication to the task. Focus on what you can be doing better in your job. Every day assess yourself and move in that direction and do the same in your special teams. If you do, more kids will cross that goal line miles ahead of where they otherwise might have, and our team, from pre-k to last year here, will be a learning machine propelling every student to the greatest heights of learning possible as they leave our school system. And isn’t that what we all want?

I vividly remember watching Tom Brady yelling to his teammates during this recent and most historic Super bowl game, as he stood on the sideline waiting for the next possession, “Do your job!” and “Trust the process!” He was reminding his teammates that every individual team member makes a difference in how the entire team performs, and it is your responsibility as a member of the team to continually strive to be the best you can be to help the entire team meet that goal. So, as you get up out of your seat here this morning and leave this room, rededicate yourself to being the best member of the Pelham School District team that you can possibly be. Be an ever-improving member of this pre-k to grade 12 team whose goal it is to get every student across that graduation platform. Practice this ideal as a professional every day this year, so that as each student moves one more step toward that graduation platform, they are ultimately able to make that walk across because they were supported by the effort of every person in this district because everyone in the district did their job and did it well, and were getting better at it every day.

It’s a new year. It begins now. Go be awesome!