New Spring-Ford super introduces himself [with video]
Dr. David Goodin took questions from the public during a lightly attended "meet & greet" session at Upper Providence Elementary School.
For the second time this spring, residents of the Spring-Ford Area School District were given the opportunity to meet with and ask questions of someone who had not yet assumed the role of district superintendent.
This time, though, the man on the receiving end of the questions already had the job.
Dr. David Goodin, who last week was named the successor to outgoing superintendent Dr. Marsha Hurda, spoke to the public at Upper Providence Elementary School for a little more than 75 minutes on Thursday evening. After explaining that he was "a little tired," he made about ten minutes of autobiographical remarks before opening the floor to residents' questions on his background, his educational philosophy, and his view of various challenges facing the school district.
"I chose Spring-Ford"
Goodin, a former history teacher, explained how he obtained a master's degree in history, then transitioned to a career in higher education after his proposed topic for a doctoral dissertation failed to attract a sponsor at Penn State University.
Speaking with a gentle Southern twang, Goodin described the challenges of his current job at the Connellsville Area School District. Located about fifty miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Goodin said the Connellsville area is beset by what he described as "generational poverty."
"When I first went into the district, the board wanted to give me a five year contract, but I wanted to be honest with them. Connellsville was not where I was looking to settle and be a part of the community. I needed the experience. That doesn't mean that I didn't go into the district and give it my all, because I did," Goodin said.
"I knew from the outset that that was not where we really wanted to be," Goodin said, referring to himself and his wife, Lisa, who accompanied him to last night's session.
"The district didn't just choose me. I chose Spring-Ford. We are hoping that Spring-Ford is going to be a home for us," Goodin said.
Getting students' input on the school district's direction
Asked about his "vision" for the school district, Goodin asked a set of rhetorical questions.
"Everybody knows that [Spring-Ford's] PSSA scores are great, but is that the only measure that we're looking for? What do the kids think? What is their perception of the service that we provide for them? Do they see something that we don't see?" Goodin asked.
Goodin spoke of the importance of challenging the status quo.
"One of my characteristics, as annoying as it may be, is to constantly ask, 'Why are we doing that?' In public education, the answer is often, 'Because that's the way we've always done that,' and that's not a good answer," Goodin said.
"I see my job as working with the board, the leadership team, and the community to develop a common vision that meets the needs of our students," Goodin said.
"I'm interested in what parents think, but I'm really interested in learning what our students think about what we're doing," Goodin said.
Teaching can't be "one size fits all"
Asked about his ideas on effective teaching, Goodin said teachers should be prepared to let students help direct the curriculum through their interests and curiosity.
Goodin said teachers must be "comfortable with inquiry, allowing students to ask the questions."
"You put out a problem and let students direct their own learning through a series of questions," Goodin said.
"My vision is not 'one size fits all.' It just can't be anymore," Goodin said.
Dealings with teachers' unions
Asked how he would be involved with the district's next labor agreement with the Spring-Ford Education Association, which represents the district's teachers, Goodin noted that he has previously negotiated on behalf of administration when he was a middle school principal. He spoke of the importance of communication and willingness to compromise on both sides of a labor agreement.
"I've never been in a hostile situation, I've never been in a situation where the association and the administration and the board were far apart, and I think a lot of that has to do with the relationship we've built through communication with both sides," Goodin said.
Goodin said he was reluctant to bring in outside mediators.
"I don't want to hand anything over to a mediator, because then I don't control the situation," Goodin said.
Goodin said both sides in labor negotiations are ultimately on the same side.
"We're all educators," Goodin said. "First and foremost, I am an educator."
Notes: Following the question & answer session, Goodin yielded the floor to school board vice-president and finance committee member Thomas DiBello. DiBello said the district's 2011-12 budget, which is scheduled for final approval on June 20, was "pretty much solid at this point" but encouraged the public to attend future school board and committee meetings. DiBello said public discussions regarding the 2012-13 budget were likely to begin in September ... Goodin said he met with leaders of the district's home & school associations in a closed meeting immediately prior to the public session...About 50 members of the public were in attendance at the meeting, not counting members of the school board and their families.