A Climate of Understanding

By Richard Castallo and Joseph Natale

All the board members cared about children and wanted them to succeed. All were attuned to the concerns of teachers, hearing out every complaint. And when someone stood up at a board meeting to criticize the administration, board members afforded the critic the utmost courtesy. Community members and union representatives were given a forum that allowed them to bypass district procedures and administrative protocol and voice their personal concerns.

Great support for teachers. A real attempt at community outreach. And a school board that lacked vision and purpose and went in different directions at different times. That was the situation in the 4,700-student Warwick Valley (N.Y.) Schools less than three years ago, when the district decided to rethink its philosophy of governance.

We know this because we were that harried superintendent and the consultant brought in to help heal a board and administration that seemed divided despite their best intentions. We hope those in similar situations might see themselves in our story. Ultimately, we put aside our differences and learned to work as a team with a focus on specific goals and a mission centered on student achievement. 

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