As Southern Regional BOE Wraps Up School Year, Superintendent Sets Focus on Continued Improvement

Jun 27, 2018

With the high school’s graduation ceremony almost a week past, the Southern Regional Board of Education culminated the school year on June 20 with routine business – doling out the annual food service contract, approving lunch prices and adding several new certified staff members among those agenda items.

But as one school year ends, preparations already have begun for the next one, and after the meeting Superintendent Craig Henry sat down to discuss a few of the things he was most happy about regarding the school year now past and is focused on with the new one starting in September.

“We had a great school year, and I was incredibly blessed to get to know many of the seniors through many initiatives we took on as a district,” Henry said. “I’m going to miss them, a lot. But this year is over and now we have to move on and get better. Once you get content, you’re going to miss opportunities for growth and forever be stuck in status quo. We don’t want to get complacent here. This game’s over, but the next one’s started.”

Regarding some of the successes of the year, Henry was quick to point out the high school’s “Mini-Medical Academy” as well as the middle school’s “GRIT” campaign, which, according to him, had “an immediate and noticeable impact,” and the “Pause Before You Post” initiative. But those were more highlight-reel type things compared to the constant atmosphere of compassion that permeates the district.

“What makes us so special is our culture of care,” he said. “We have so many teachers and staff members who go way beyond the classroom and offices to touch the lives of our students, and they follow that example in extraordinary ways.”

From the seemingly endless numbers of fundraisers for good causes and delivering Thanksgiving meals to families in need, to the purposeful orchestration of a student body committed to honoring the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Henry said there were many moments in which he was proud to be the district’s superintendent.

“We have a teacher who came to us this year from North Jersey, and she recently wrote an email to me that identified all the things that separate us from other districts she’s worked in,” Henry said. “One of the big ones is the level of compassion among our staff and within our student body, and that’s a credit to our entire team here at Southern, starting with the middle school.”

Unfortunately for the central administration crew, one of the team members is retiring, and the loss of Assistant Superintendent Dan MacPhee originally had Henry a bit bummed.

“Dan and I have been together since I opened the 11/12 building as principal,” he said. “His impact within this district is immeasurable. He’s taken us into a new age of education, from databasing to statistical analysis, and there’s no ‘I think’ in the Dan MacPhee repertoire. With Dan, it’s always been what we as a team need to do and why it needs to be done. He’s great at analyzing data, and he’s just a great thinker.

“I can’t encapsulate the impact he’s had other than to say none of what we’ve accomplished in this district during the past 15 years would have been accomplished had it not been for his hard work and dedication to the students.”

However, MacPhee’s retirement brings a new era of sorts, as Megan Vile steps in to take over the role of assistant superintendent.

“Every ending becomes an opportunity for a new beginning, and Megan and I are now developing a strong working relationship that’s like none I’ve ever had yet – because of her passion, effervescence and high intellectual ability. She’s the real deal, and she’s going to help steer our district in new and exciting ways.”

According to Henry, Vile already has been eyeing ways to improve the middle school’s academic programs “to make them a little more expansive,” looking into ways to expand and formalize the mini-medical academy and advance the multi-tiered support system in place within the district. Henry also expects to see some slight changes to the language arts program in the high school, along with an increase in commitment to fitness testing.

“Beyond that, we’re not changing much,” Henry said. “We’re in ever-improvement mode, but those things are usually small things that are tweaked and adjusted, rather than overhauled. We don’t just implement things because they sound good. We always evaluate our operation and look for ways to improve, without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

— David Biggy

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