Plattsburgh's New Superintendent on Curriculum, Teacher Shortage & Gender Neutral Bathrooms

By Staci DaSilva |

Published 08/29 2016 05:49PM

Updated 08/29 2016 06:27PM

When backpacks get packed and buses get loaded next week in Plattsburgh, there will be a new superintendent leading the Plattsburgh City School District.

He’s a familiar face in the city.

Jay Lebrun had been associate superintendent in Plattsburgh for 9 years before he got the promotion in July.

He worked on the business side of things, including budgeting, taxation and purchasing.

“I think it's a useful area to have in your background,” he said.

Former superintendent James Short retired at the end of the school year. Now Lebrun is the one at the top as the district’s new superintendent.

The first part of his vision includes better aligning curriculum.

“We're also working hard on improving students writing skills and their literacy fluency,” said Lebrun. “We've engaged a consultant."

He says some students graduate ill-prepared in writing, something that’s reflected in common core test results.

“We have a number of initiatives that are going to work to integrate writing more into the curriculum and into a broad set of courses,” said Lebrun.

For the last few years, parents of more than half of the district’s 1,800 students have opted to take them out of common core testing.

“With such limited participation, I think it's really hard to use that as an indicator of our teacher quality,” he said. “So that's an area where I don't think the state gave due consideration to."

In a time when a lot of districts are still facing budget cuts, Lebrun has a state-certified teacher shortage.

He says subjects involved include music, technology and secondary special education.

“Our new reality is to have to search further and longer for applicants and candidates and at times, I think that schools are going to have to make use of uncertified or otherwise-certified teachers,” he said.

Gender neutral bathrooms have been a hot button issue in schools across the country.
In Plattsburgh, for Lebrun, it’s a no brainer.

“We want to provide choice and allow students to choose the facilities which best fit their comfort level, their comfort area, their gender-expression,” he said. “We have, on an informal basis and in conjunction with families, made arrangements for several years now for students, but more visibly and more formally this year there will be gender neutral facilities available."

Those will be in both the middle and high schools.

As for budgets, Lebrun says he hopes to keep taxes and programming relatively steady.

Looking ahead to next summer, Lebrun says security work will be done on the high school.

He says the fifty year old layout of the building isn’t the most efficient approach to security.

The upgrades will improve sight lines and provide better direct access.

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