Dundee appoints Houck superintendent
DUNDEE—The Dundee school board officially appointed Kelly Houck as their selection to become the next superintendent Thursday, March 27. Houck was the school superintendent for the Canaseraga Central School District, issuing her resignation to that district’s school board later the same night.
Houck will officially take over from Interim Superintendent Laurie Hopkins-Halbert July 1, but she said her transition plan includes spending one day a week in the district between now and then to get adjusted to the new setting. Houck said she applied for the job because it fits her style as an educator and because the district is very well run by staff and administrators.
“[I applied for the position] for personal, professional as well as selfish reasons as well,” Houck said. “Personally and professionally as well, I am appreciative of Dundee’s commitment to excellence. They do not let the size of the district get in the way of what they are providing for students. The size of the district also fits perfectly with my leadership style. I’m very much a hands-on superintendent. I enjoy building relationships with staff, students and the community as we work toward making sure our students have all of the skill sets necessary to be successful in the 21st century.”
Houck added one of the “selfish reasons” she chose to apply for the Dundee position was because it is closer to where she lives in the Lamoka Lake area and cuts down her commute time. She said while Dundee takes great pride in their students, they have also made several fiscally savvy decisions that put them in a good place financially. Houck said this will help the district face the challenges with unfunded mandates and funding shortfalls in public education.
“I am very impressed with the collegial attitude of the staff toward one another and the professionalism that was displayed during my tour as well,” Houck said. “Also, probably the greatest strength that I noticed was how they relate to their students. It didn’t matter if it was a high school teacher and they interacted with an elementary student. They know their students and they know them well.”
As far as the issue of the Common Core standards, Houck said she believes while implementation has flaws, they will ultimately help students meet demands in a changing society. Houck said she is not sure what impacts Indiana’s recent decision to opt out of the Common Core will have on other states, but thinks it will not affect the districts desire to educate students properly for the 21st century.
“It is fair to say we are all well aware the world has changed at a very rapid pace,” Houck said. “And probably education has not changed at the same pace that it needed to meet the demands of the 21st century. [...] While implementation was flawed from the very beginning, regardless of the implementation, moving education forward through the channel of the new Common Core standards is the right thing to do.”
With the issue of the student dress code, Houck said the school needs one that can eliminate distractions while being fair to the students. Revisions were approved at the board meeting that the board thinks should help eliminate some issues students and parents had with the original dress code.
“It’s one of those things we obviously have to deal with and make policies that are fair and consistent,” Houck said. “It’s awful hard to sometimes keep up with the latest fashions in regards to the school dress code. It’s one of those things that we just need to be able to create a dress code that promotes a safe environment as well as a learning environment. We are trying to minimize the distractions and focus on what is really important. That is what we try to teach every single day.”
The veteran’s tax exemption is another issue that will be addressed with Houck as superintendent. She said at this point it is an issue she and the board need to learn more about before coming to a decision on it. Houck said she wants to know what the true impact will be on all residents in the district. She said the district can either raise revenue by raising taxes or program cuts, adding neither are a popular decision.
“Unlike the STAR exemption, the state is not going to fund the difference,” Houck said. “They are not going to provide school districts with the additional money to make up the difference like they do with the STAR exemption. I think it is one of those things where we need to literally do a complete analysis of who would apply, and depending on what scale is adopted and decide what impacts that will have financially on the district before we move forward.”
Houck said as far as the board’s resolution calling on the state to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), she hopes keeping constant pressure will lead to changes. She said the more the issue is kept at the forefront, the less likely it is to be ignored.
“I’d like to [say] they would directly impact it, but I’m afraid that is not going to happen,” Houck said. “However, what they will do is keep the political pressure where it needs to be and also keep the spotlight on the real issue. Funding for public education must change and we can’t wait until budget season to make that on the front page, so to speak. It needs to be on the front page every single day. With school districts passing such resolutions, if that’s a way to make sure it is constantly on the forefront, then that is what we need to do.”
Houck said the unfunded mandates and other financial issues will continue to be priorities for all school districts going forward, not just at Dundee.
“It’s a perfect storm right now when you think about it financially between the unfunded mandates, the property tax cap calculations, the GEA as well as the need to change the foundation aid formula,” Houck said. “Those are going to the things that continue to impact how we provide education to our students. Trying to meet the demands of the 21st century, it is very clear to me as an educator we need to make sure our students are aggressively better than any other student that graduates from New York State in order to compete for college and career opportunities. Regardless of where they graduate from, regardless of what zip code they go to school in, they have got to be aggressively better in order to compete for those opportunities today.”