First Keystone candidate speaks in public forum

Dr. Stacy Winslow

By KEVIN MCKEE

kmckee@lockhaven.com

MILL HALL — The first candidate for Keystone’s open superintendent position, Dr. Stacy Winslow, has now come and gone.

Dr. Winslow is a native of the area, and a Lock Haven High School graduate. She went to college in Elizabethtown for her bachelor’s, and attained her master’s from Penn State. Her Doctorate of Education was attained from Immaculata University.

Most recently she comes from Derry Township School District, where she has served in various administrative roles since 2012.

Dr. Winslow gave a presentation at 7 p.m. last night, in the Central Mountain Middle School Auditorium, which was then followed by questions from community and school board members.

“Great organizations confront the brutal facts of reality, then act on them,” she began, quoting Jim Collins.

Her two “brutal facts” — a “$7 million deficit, and unacceptably low test scores.”

Dr. Winslow continued by noting that everything is connected.

She said, “$7 million is almost the same that we’re paying in tuition to charter schools – which means this is not the school of choice for our kids. People are choosing someplace else.”

She continued by noting the existence of Sugar Valley’s Charter School and the school’s geographic importance. “We will never get them to come here,” she said.

However, she paid special focus to the students from the Lock Haven area who are traveling to Sugar Valley, saying “that’s what we need to look at.”

From there, she moved into test scores.

She said she believes Keystone’s flagging reading scores are a result of misaligned curriculum, citing the district’s acceptable science scores as proof that “kids here can read,” although she did stress that she cannot say with certainty, as she is not a district employee and does not have unlimited access to the district’s resources.

She also briefly noted that in her research, she saw “very little celebratory information” from the district, which could contribute to low morale.

Dr. Winslow then touched on the bullying issue, which she said she has heard about. The district needs to be focused on soft, 21st-century skills, she emphasized, because that’s what employers are looking for – and as a side benefit, “people with strong soft skills don’t have to bully people. They have strong interpersonal skills.”

When it comes to a question of test readiness vs. future readiness, she said she will “always say future ready.”

She continued her presentation by noting that while she thinks school choice is a good idea, she wants to be “the school of choice.”

She referenced AP Computer Science as something she would like to bring to the district. “Only 206 schools in Pennsylvania offer computer science, but there are currently 17,000 open jobs in Pennsylvania — unfilled — for computer scientists,” she said.

One of the particular benefits a strong computer science program lends to a rural district is that graduates can take jobs as computer scientists remotely.

“They can take jobs in Philadelphia but still live here, contributing their income to this area,” she said, referencing brain drain as a serious problem facing rural societies in the 21st century.

Dr. Winslow closed with another quote from Jim Collins: “Confront the brutal facts, but never lose faith.”

From there, the forum moved into the questions-and-answers portion.

The first question was perhaps the elephant in the room: “What is the game plan regarding the budget and the deficit?”

Dr. Winslow recalled a district she worked in just after the recession hit – “a very affluent district that was hit extremely hard,” she said.

“We talked about the budget issues like cake – lots of things were icing, and losing the icing hurt, but we were trying to stay as far away from the students, the cake, as possible,” she continued.

“But sometimes we had to cut the cake,” she admitted, somberly. “I don’t know that I can offer you a different way, or say that there won’t be hurt. It’ll hurt, but we will recover.”

Dr. Winslow also fielded questions from the community about music education and the arts, which she views as “some cake, some icing,” continuing her metaphor, as well as community involvement, principal responsibility and building management, special needs, and vocational education.

Her answers were strongly pro-community engagement, including subcommittees to the board featuring non-voting community members who would be selected for their skills, as well as informal breakfasts and coffee or pizza encounters with community members and business leaders, with the purpose of gathering feedback in a casual setting.

She also said that while some aspects of operation, especially student or faculty discipline, must be district-wide, she respects the individual needs of each building.

Vocational education received strong support from Dr. Winslow: “I definitely view vocational education as cake,” she said.

She noted that most districts don’t have their own Career and Technology Centers – instead, most CTCs are county-run, with districts sending their students to that hub, which is operated by consortiums.

“Here, if we close or eliminate programs, those students don’t have anywhere else to go,” she said.

She also expressed her amazement with Keystone’s CTC. “What I saw today is on par with any of the centers I’ve seen or been part of in the past,” she said.

According to Dr. Winslow, Keystone has a large head-start on tackling the new requirements of Pennsylvania’s Future Ready Index, which requires career exploration at the high school level.

“I would hate to see them lose that opportunity,” she concluded.

Board member Jennifer Bottorf asked about her experience with multi-age classrooms, to which Dr. Winslow replied that both of her daughters had gone through multi-aged classrooms, and it was a “wonderful experience.”

Bottorf also asked, “What can the community expect from you right out of the gate?”

Dr. Winslow said one of her first goals would be “to talk to the community and get an idea of what they think the district is doing well, and what the district needs to be doing better.”

She also listed increased communication and transparency as priorities, to try to help dispel some of the “general discontentment” with the district she seemed to see during her visit to the county yesterday.

Board member Bo Miller asked, “What are your top three action items if you’re the successful candidate?”

Dr. Winslow answered:

r “Test scores come out in July – jump into aggregrating test scores, see where the holes were for curriculum.”

r “Set up a community forum – I have never gone into a new leadership position where a meet-and-greet wasn’t an important part of the transition.”

r “The budget just has to be one of the first things, and because I don’t currently have access to the nitty-gritty details, I would have to get into that right away. Some decisions might be made already by the time I would come into the position, but I need to focus on the long term.”

In her closing statement, Dr. Winslow thanked everyone for attending, and also commended the facilities team at Keystone for their work in maintaining the district’s buildings.

“The old buildings are really in phenomenal shape,” she said.

One of the district’s greatest strengths, according to Dr. Winslow, is that “people really care about what’s happening here.”

She also said, “Regardless of whether I’m your candidate or not, I’ll be watching, because this district can do great things.”

The next public forum will be held tonight, also at 7 p.m., and also in the Central Mountain Middle School Auditorium. It will feature the current acting superintendent, Dr. Alan Lonoconus.

The public is encouraged to attend.

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