The Highland Central School District has been undergoing administrative transitions throughout the past year. Deborah Haab, superintendent over the past eight years announced her plan to retire June 2017.
The Board of Education appointed Thomas Bongiovi as interim superintendent in October. A month later, Peter Harris, Highland High School principal took a new position at Ulster BOCES Hudson Valley Pathways Academy resulting in William Zimmer appointed as his replacement. The district is currently interviewing candidates to fill Haab’s position as Bongiovi remains an active interim in the meantime.
The first BOE meeting was held regarding the Highland district with Bongiovi on the 18th of October. During the meeting, Bongiovi thanked faculty and staff as well as community members for their welcoming support. “From the moment you walk into the buildings, and just being around town, you can really feel the family atmosphere here,” Bongiovi commented. “And that creates such a great learning environment for students.”
In reference to the long-standing connection the district maintained with the Rotary Club, Bongiovi made note of his own membership with the group during his first week as interim. He also noted a priority he finds essential is to maintain communication between the community and the school district.
“In my first few months I have spent a great deal of time meeting with my administration, staff members, district leaders and members of the community,” Bongiovi stated. “It is important for me to gain their perspective regarding the Highland Central School District and what we need to focus on moving forward.”
In addition, Bongiovi commented on his efforts to concentrate on understanding local culture with a focus on understanding the financial status, academic position and overall operation of the Highland district.
He also stated that the school district has taken on a proactive role towards combating national substance abuse. Bongiovi’s five-step prevention and drug education plan designed for each grade is underway, including presentations given to over 20 classrooms across grades 4-6 given by Philip Roloson, police Sergeant, and Chief Daniel Waage. Presentations with grade levels 7 and 8 will be held in January 2018.
The next stage of this drug education and deterrence strategy will involve training all staff and faculty in the district regarding the use of a particular drug used to reverse effects of drug overdoses called Narcan. According to Bongiovi, 37 employees already completed their training, with additional training programmes planned to take place in January.
Craig Vedder, New York State Trooper, will attend faculty meetings as part of the third step in order to discuss symptoms and signs of drug abuse followed by presentations for students.
The fourth and fifth stages will include the development of age-appropriate awareness programs for all grades from Kindergarten to 12th grade as well as urging community-wide collaboration through the development of a coalition holding members from the community, district, local organizations, as well as county agencies, to facilitate drug prevention and education efforts.