Cooperstown Central School District’s new superintendent is poised to take the helm on Jan. 1, 2017.
Dr. William Crankshaw’s appointment by the Board of Education on Oct. 5 caps a period of change in the district that was set in motion before the 2015-16 school year began. Dr. Crankshaw is currently the superintendent and elementary principal of Remsen Central School District.
We recently asked him to answer a series of questions.
How are you feeling about your appointment as the new superintendent at Cooperstown?
I am feeling excited for the challenge and privilege to work for a district that values so highly – excellence in the education of children. There is so much to celebrate in Cooperstown, and there is tremendous potential for growth and continued progress. The board of education, the new administrative team and the faculty and staff indicated to me that they will be receptive to growth and progress. Together, we will accomplish great work, and for that, I can barely contain my enthusiasm. I cannot wait to get to the job at hand, and I look forward to working closely with the Cooperstown community to provide a superior education for our students, but also to be the standard of excellence regionally, statewide and nationally.
What are some of the things you find most appealing about Cooperstown Central School District?
The school board has the right focus for me. As a group, they impressed me. Each seems to be “in it” for the right reasons. They are focused on a singular mission, but all have unique experiences to bring to the table. Another attraction to Cooperstown for me is certainly the opportunity to work with a leadership team that is clearly focused on student success. Contrary to what some might think, when administrators do their job well, they are focused, not on power or themselves, but on doing whatever is necessary for important learning opportunities for students and the faculty and staff who support them. Our Cooperstown leadership team strikes me as quality people who are “in it” for all the right reasons. There is a talented, dedicated faculty and staff, as well. I never want to forget why I became a teacher, and why I fell in love with the craft. I never want to forget my own parents in their roles as support staff in the schools I attended, either. Both teachers and support staff are the most important models and contact that our students will have in school. I’m confident that the Cooperstown faculty and staff will recognize their value and take pride in their professions. Lastly, I have been enamored with Cooperstown since I was a child. I’m looking forward to contributing in very meaningful ways to the wonderful community that I will soon call home.
What do you think are some of the most important issues facing education in upstate New York today?
The challenges facing education in upstate New York are really quite unique. First of all, growth should be our focus. We must examine how we can reverse the trend of population decline in upstate communities. Cooperstown is a very lovely place in which to live and raise a family, but we must work as an entity within the larger structure of our community – not isolate ourselves from the larger mission of our society – and particularly our entire community – if we are to tackle the problem of slowly shrinking population. I do have concerns, as I know the board does too, about the relevance and engagement of students in school. Are the programs and requirements we’re offering really the best way to prepare our children for the society they’re going to live in? ? I do agree that our current learning standards, now under careful revision by experienced educators, focus on developing 21st C. Skills. Particularly, those that involve creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication (I call them the 4Cs) are incredibly important now. Singular skills, academic skills without application, or requirements/mandates for the sake of mandates are no longer acceptable. Our students know that, and, if we’re being honest, so do we. We need to ask ourselves: Can we expand beyond being a critical incubator for college admission and preparation? Can we also focus on being an incubator that works with parents and caregivers to prepare our children for real life, to be functional, contributing citizens in society, and to be successful in real jobs that bring them a sense of purpose and fulfillment? Our learning standards will need to be valued and de-coupled from concerns about teacher effectiveness and the complex issue of testing.
What are you going to do between now and Jan. 1 to prepare for your new role?
I’m working now on my entry plan. It will be a dynamic plan that is respectful of traditions, but also written based on a premise of urgency that we need to move our district forward. That entry plan is something I’ll share with the board in the next few weeks. It’ll cover a 90-day period, roughly. I am also meeting with board members, the leadership team, faculty and staff and community members. I am committed to learning as much as I can about our community through these people, but I will also look at performance data and data that gives me a picture of our successes and challenges. I will strive to learn all I can about the students, the traditions, the board’s policies and the professional practices in our district that point to student success. One of my first appointments was set up with Francesca Zambello, the artistic and general director of Glimmerglass Opera. Her assistant here in Cooperstown is one of my former elementary students. Francesca and I have been talking about the possibilities of partnerships between Glimmerglass and schools for several years. What better community than Cooperstown to bring a strong partnership to life. It’s all very exciting.