School District Officials Consider Consultant’s Recommendations

OSWEGO, NY – A report by the person hired to conduct a study of Oswego High School, with an eye on the house system, has produced a myriad of responses and recommendation.

Ray Savarese has about 35 years’ of experience in education. He served as an executive principal at Liverpool High School, and retired from the central office there.

Acting Superintendent Bill Crist, foreground, and Board of Education President Dave White discuss the results of a study of Oswego High School.
Acting Superintendent Bill Crist, foreground, and Board of Education President Dave White discuss the results of a study of Oswego High School.

In the course of his research, he spoke with a large cross-section of shareholders in the district, from students and teachers and administrators to support staff and parents.

In a rather lengthy presentation with the board of education earlier this week, he shared his findings and offered several recommendations.

On Thursday, Acting Superintendent Bill Crist and Board of Education President Dave White shared the results with the media.

“This report is the culmination of about two and a half months of interviews and observations,” Crist explained. “I think Ray presented a very comprehensive review of the opinions and perceptions of stakeholders and then also provided us with some good recommendations. We now need to review and prioritize and move forward to implement some of his recommendations.”

One of the district’s goals is look at its graduation and drop-out rates, Crist said.

It isn’t a high school problem, but that’s where it culminates, he explained.

“It’s something we need to look at,” he said.

One of the big things you always hear is that there are too many principals (at OHS), White said.

“We are right about in the middle,” he said of the ratio of administrators to (OHS) students in the district as compared to other surrounding districts. “We have one principal and three assistants; that gives us 1 to 375.”

Most area high schools have between 300 and 400 students per administrator, Crist pointed out.

The acting superintendent said, over all, he was pleased with the report and there weren’t any surprises.

“We will consider all of his recommendations very seriously,” he added. “He identified some things we are doing well; there were some areas that he was somewhat critical of.”

The district will use the recommendations as a tool to help it grow, and look at the high school specifically, Crist noted.

According to Crist, Savarese presented the district with three recommendations regarding the house system.

One would be to create a ‘team’ plan (similar to what’s in place at OMS), which would focus on ninth grade.

“The ninth grade team, or ninth grade house, is something that we might look at,” Crist said. “But again, these are just recommendations.”

Another recommendation was to replicate what another school’s system where there is one principal, an academic dean and two assistant principals.

The third option would be to keep the current system, with modifications.

“What I don’t think we will do after this report is reduce the number of administrators at the high school,” Crist said. “In practice, we are not a ‘house’ system. We are in fact a system like most other or many other high schools in the area that divide their student population alphabetically.”

Savarese will present a general overview of his report at Tuesday’s board of education meeting (7 p.m. Faust Theater), and will also be available to speak with individual stakeholders Wednesday, Crist said.

The district has already addressed some of the issues found in Savarese’s report, such as hall monitors, White said.

“They are looking at changing their attire (to some sort of security uniform instead street clothes). Appearance sometimes helps you; people look at you and say, ‘OK, now I know who you are,” said White, a former security officer for the district.

“Some of these (recommendations) have been implemented,” Crist agreed. “Others are part of the larger plan.”

He said the district will review all the recommendations before moving forward with any large changes.

“We want to make sure we have a plan in place, not just implementing something that comes off a PowerPoint presentation,” he said.

“Just the whole concept of upgrading the (student code of conduct into a) planner seems to be something that the board had interest in doing and actually the high school administration is looking at the examples Ray provided,” Crist continued. “It looks like something that we’ll be moving to. It’s a more comprehensive document for the students to have.”

The district is also considering a Saturday suspension plan instead of the out-of-school suspension.

This would be for non-violent offenses and would be contingent on parental approval, according to Crist.

“We’re going to look at that one for sure,” he said.

Before any major changes are implemented, White cautioned, everybody needs to be made aware of what is happening, right from the start of the process.

“I think it’s important that we include more people in this stuff so they feel like they’re a part of it. We have to talk to people, see what they have to say. It’s got to be a community effort,” White said.

Some of the recommendations are a year or more away from being implemented, if in fact they actually are, Crist pointed out.

That is because the district needs to do more research on some things, he explained.

Savarese’s recommendations, he said, would be a good tool to get the district moving in appositive direction.

“It was great working with Ray because he wasn’t just some ‘Joe’ off the street, he has a career of education, specifically in schools and specifically in a large high school like ours,” Crist said. “He was able to convey not only his own experiences but the concerns of (the local stakeholders).”

There are always better ways of doing things, he noted.

“We are a good district in many ways, in terms of how we educate our children, the number of offerings provided, in terms of extra-curricular activities, our involvement in the community and with parents,” Crist said. “But we’re not a great district yet in terms of what we can do as a whole and how we can better educate our children. The information that’s provided here is to simply assist us in looking at better ways, more effective ways to make us a better district – a district that goes from good to great.”