Parkland students head to the classroom today with a new superintendent at the helm, .
A familiar presence -- he has been everything from athletic director to high school principal to the district's assistant superintendent -- Sniscak begins his first school year in the district's top spot.
He takes our questions, on education initiatives, the teachers' contract, sports and more.
Q. You’ve unveiled “Education Innovation” as the theme for the 2011-2012 school year. What does that mean for Parkland staff, students?
A. Our theme, “Parkland School District: Where Challenges are Met Through Education and Innovation” is reflective of the current context of public education and the various challenges that are currently impacting us. We are faced with numerous short and long-term challenges, not the least of which include school funding issues, decreasing revenue streams, Parkland’s changing demographics, potential referendum, Keystone exam implementation, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (commonly called No Child Left Behind or NCLB), and many other local, state and national issues. We all need to embrace these challenges as an opportunity for improving our productivity and efficiency through smart, innovative and divergent thinking.
Q. How does the school’s newly formed Education Foundation figure into the theme, and your goals as superintendent?
A. It is an example of an innovative project that has just begun in Parkland. The Parkland School District Education Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that we recently formed in collaboration with our School Board, Administration, both Union Leaders, and concerned residents who reside in Parkland and who share our desire to maintain our excellent programs and encourage academic growth.
The Foundation is comprised of volunteers whose mission will be to raise funds for the Parkland School District. The Foundation will initiate a “Celebrate Innovation” grant program as one new venture to encourage innovation. Any Parkland employee with a desire to implement an innovative idea that will enhance or enrich their classroom, work environment or that benefit students or staff members will be encouraged to apply for grant money to fund proposed projects.
Q. Your predecessor, Louise Donohue, described your leadership style as collaborative. How would you say you lead?
I believe that my supervisors, past and present, as well as the people that I was responsible to supervise, would describe me as an extremely loyal, dedicated and dependable person. I also believe that they would share that I am a person of integrity, high moral character and that I possess a strong work ethic. Additionally, they would communicate that I am capable of delegating tasks but I am never one to delegate responsibility. Likewise, they would describe me as an effective communicator, an empathetic listener, and a collaborative problem solver that can visualize the big picture. In my judgment, these attributes and skills undergird effective leadership and will allow me to be a highly competent and productive Superintendent.
Q. The school board has given you the go-ahead to enter into “early bird” contract negotiations with the teachers’ union. Given your earlier remarks (at the district’s budget seminar) that the union will have to make salary concessions, what can taxpayers’ expect?
A. A collaborative process with a focus and a firm commitment to ensure that Parkland School District continues to provide a high quality comprehensive educational program, inclusive of rich offerings in the visual and performing arts and athletics for the children of our school district.
Q. Will the administration ask teachers for a salary freeze for any upcoming years?
A. We will not negotiate through the media.
Q. The head of the Parkland Education Association has predicted that negotiations will go smoothly. What do you anticipate?
A. I would have no cause to assume otherwise.
Q. What are you looking forward to the most this school year as head into your first school year as superintendent?
A. Building relationships with the people in our school community and with local business to enhance the education we offer in our school district.
Q. Parkland officials faced a tough budget process for the 2011-2012 school year, eliminating 60 positions, freezing administrators’ salaries and making program changes, such as ending its in-house, behind-the-wheel drivers’ education program. What challenges and changes are ahead?
A. Our financial challenges remain as the economic environment and the Act 1 index will limit any potential revenue growth in Parkland. The Governor’s budget provided several reductions that will also impact us moving forward if left unchanged. Reducing personnel costs will continue to be necessary.
Q. How have state budget shortfalls affected initiatives, that is, programs you wanted to start?
A. The budget shortfall contributed to our need to reduce personnel and redesign our secondary remedial and alternative education programs. It will be difficult to implement any new programs, using new money, in this economic environment. We will continue to analyze, adapt and refine our existing programs to meet our changing student needs as appropriate, without incurring additional cost.
Q. The district fell short in its Annual Yearly Progress reports at Jaindl Elementary and Parkland School Districts because of the performance of two subgroups, the learning disabled and the economically disadvantaged. Board members complained about the reporting structure for No Child Left Behind, but you said the district would not make any excuses. How will the district address the AYP issue?
A. Our administrators, teachers and support staff will be looking at each child individually, assessing risk factors early in the year, and avail remediation and support for children who may be at risk of not meeting proficiency targets. Our assessment tools and strategies will allow teachers to evaluate which interventions are working best in our effort to assist each child prior to the spring test administration.
Q. Given that you were once football coach and athletic director, how do you see interscholastic sports figuring into students’ learning experiences?
A. Interscholastic sports promote citizenship, sportsmanship, lifelong lessons, teamwork, self-discipline, and facilitate the social-emotional development of students that participate. I also feel this way about the visual and performing arts as well as the clubs and other co-curricular offerings that are made available to Parkland students. Research supports the fact that students who participate in co-curricular programs tend to have higher grade-point averages, better attendance records, lower dropout rates and present fewer discipline problems.
Parkland's new superintendent takes our questions. Though he has been w
Q. Does the football season set the tone for the school year, as a principal once told a colleague?
A. My experience in Parkland and Allentown would have me agree with the notion that a successful football season sets a positive tone for the school year. A successful football season generates a lot of positive school spirit among the student body, faculty, staff and community members, especially in Parkland, where Friday night football is such a big community event.