With high standards and a passion for education, Pulaski Academy and Central School District Superintendent Brian Hartwell hopes to build on the strong foundation established by his predecessors.
Hartwell started his duties as the district’s leader in August, taking over for longtime Superintendent Dr. Marshall Marshall, who retired after a distinguished career.
“It’s not that it is tough to be the new guy, but it’s tough to be the new guy following Dr. Marshall,” Hartwell said. “Change is tough when you’re used to the same leadership and leadership style, but everyone from every entity has been very supportive, genuine and welcoming.”
While Hartwell humbly noted that he has big shoes to fill, he is confident that his career as a teacher, coach and administrator will be beneficial to PACS.
The 42-year-old superintendent has spent nearly two decades in education.
He graduated from LeMoyne College in 1995, where he majored in economics and minored in education.
Armed with a certification as a seventh through 12th grade social studies teacher, he taught at North Rose Wolcott and Oswego High School.
A self-admitted lifelong learner, Hartwell continued his own education at SUNY Oswego, where he earned his Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and his Master’s in Education Administration.
“I realized I had a passion for administration. I really enjoyed my time in the classroom and I really enjoyed my time as a coach, and administration takes a little bit of both,” Hartwell said.
For Hartwell, his passion for administration was recognized by the Oswego City School District, and he was hired as an assistant principal and later as executive principal at Oswego High School, where he served until his recent appointment as the new PACS superintendent.
Whether he was teaching at North Rose Wolcott, serving as principal in Oswego, or presiding as the new superintendent in Pulaski, Hartwell said he has been fortunate to have worked with many outstanding educators who aided in his success.
Although he is still new to PACS, he is already fully immersed in the district and the community.
In addition to attending school and community functions, Hartwell is in the process of buying a home in Pulaski.
“I’m moving my life here because this is where I plan on spending my life for the foreseeable future, and the payback is to be part of this community,” the superintendent said. “To really be part of the community, you have to be invested.”
Being involved in the community is just as important as being invested in the students within the district, Hartwell said.
“I’m passionate about what I do and I’m passionate about creating meaningful learning opportunities for students – and learning opportunities can happen anywhere; it’s in the classroom, it’s on the fields and courts, it’s on the stage and all the things that are extra-curricular and co-curricular,” he said.
That all-encompassing collaborative mentality is reflective of Hartwell’s leadership style.
Quoting Aristotle, the superintendent acknowledged that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“For me that’s how I approach leadership,” he said. “It’s inspiring a team of people to achieve great things. We’re always looking forward and honing in on the importance of teamwork. Individually we only have so much that we can do, but when you start working together for that common goal, there’s just not much that we can’t accomplish.”
To establish definitive, lofty goals for PACS, the superintendent has instituted a learn-and-listen approach.
He is creating an entry plan by interviewing different school personnel, documenting their input on student performance, obstacles, areas of success and areas that need improvement.
“We will look at this and determine what two or three things we want to get better at, and then we will use that knowledge and those relationships that are created in the listening and learning phase to collaborate and develop a shared vision,” he said. “Nothing is going to happen because of my vision … it’s a vision that comes from so many people. Everyone has a voice, everyone is represented and all the stakeholder groups come together to develop our vision to create a greater Pulaski – that’s bigger than PACS. That’s our community at large.”
From an academic standpoint, Hartwell said he is working with teachers to ensure that student achievement remains a priority.
With the Common Core Learning Standards firmly in place, Hartwell said he is confident that the district will see continued growth in all subject areas, which will help create college and career-ready students.
“Teamwork, problem solving and creativity are 21st century skills that we really need to help our students grow in,” Hartwell said. “The Common Core develops students’ problem-solving skills — differentiated learning, team situations, etc. The faculty and staff have developed an excellent foundation that will allow our district to continue to move forward with Common Core implementation.”
While education is ever-changing, Hartwell said he has all of the right pieces in places to help meet the evolving requirements – students, parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, faculty and the community.
“There’s an expectation of success and that’s the team I want to be a part of,” Hartwell said. “I’m so ecstatic with the opportunities and the possibilities to continue in the footsteps of some great people, and I’m very thankful.”