The Port Washington School District will see a new face in the halls this year. Dr. Michael Hynes has been appointed as the district’s superintendent and Dr. Kathleen Mooney’s successor.
Hynes explained to the Port Washington News that he was drawn to the Port district for both personal and professional reasons.
“Personally, I think it’s important as an educator to grow and be out of your comfort zone and Port, as far as my experiences, is something that’s going to push me, which I find intriguing,” he said. “I think, well I hope, I can add some value to this community professionally. Port is high achieving, but I think it can be higher. There are gaps that need to be closed, which is an issue more nationwide, but I also want to be concerned with the state of mental health in elementary, middle and high schools. We need to make sure we are more supportive than we are. I haven’t been here long enough, but I can say that we are working with a generation of students who are more anxious, more depressed and suicidal than before.”
Hynes has more than 20 years of experience in education, having served as the superintendent of schools for the Patchogue-Medford School District and held positions of assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, elementary and middle school principal and elementary school teacher at other districts.
“At all of my previous schools, the most important thing was valuing our staff regardless if they are a teacher, administrator or custodian—everybody has a part to play in that and we validate that by celebrating them once a month,” said Hynes. “We all have a significant part to play.”
Hynes holds a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) in educational administration and technology from Dowling College. He also holds a master of arts in elementary education from Dowling College and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bethany College.
When asked if there will be a difference coming from a south shore district to a north shore district, Hynes said the common denominator at any district is that teachers, administrators and staff are there to serve the students.
“I would say from Port standards, there’s a high level of focus on achievement and this school district is doing very well, but there’s always room for improvement,” said Hynes. “Community members have really high expectations, not that they didn’t before, but they’re very involved. It’s something I’m looking forward to working with.”
In order to foster a relationship with the community, Hynes released a 100-day plan in late July. His plan included two primary objectives: conduct a comprehensive organizational review and analysis, and begin to build relationships with stakeholders within the community.
“I want to hold town hall meetings and micro meetings, one on one or small groups that focus on what the community thinks is going well and what can be changed,” Hynes explained. “I want to meet people in the internal and external school community and then, report on the findings. It’s one thing to meet with them, but then, I’ll present what I’ve found and develop a plan moving forward.”
The comprehensive review will include meeting with staff members so Hynes can develop an understanding of the “alignment of actions and daily practices within our district as they relate to district goals and outcomes,” reads the plan. The review will be divided into two parts: administrative and staff meetings and discussions and a system review of instructional support, budget development, defining the district’s vision, mission, core values and refining the district’s strategic plans.
“The number one initiative going forward will be developing the district’s vision, mission and core values,” Hynes said. “We’ll be looking at what a graduate profile looks like, meaning when students graduate 13 years after being in the school district, what non-negotiable attributes should they possess whether they go to college, trades, military or other.”
Hynes’ next step in his plan is to create a plan of action based on the feedback from the community. Areas of concentration would include curriculum and instruction, budget and finance, capital improvements, legislative and political advocacy, technology, public relations and communication. Next May, the Port Washington Union Free School District’s “State of the District” will be presented.
Hynes will also implement Caffeine with Mike twice a week, which will be open office hours, once in the morning and once in the evening, so community members can come in and have a brief conversation with the superintendent.
“I’m trying to be as open and transparent as possible,” he said. “I’ll meet anywhere. I’m trying to keep it old school. I want the community to feel they are part of the school district.”
Hynes also plans to shadow students of all grades to see what their normal day is like, and substitute teach at all three district levels: elementary, middle and high school.
“As administrators, well, I’ll just speak for myself, I forget what it’s like to be a teacher or student nowadays,” Hynes said. “If I’m making decisions and recommending policies, I need to know what it’s like. Most of us got into this career to make a difference in students’ lives. I need to be deliberate about getting into classrooms, not just assessing, but experiencing.”
For more information about Hynes or his 100-day plan, visit www.portnet.org.