Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Jody Monroe. — Photo by Tricia Cremo/Spotlight
BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Central School District’s nearly year long search for its next superintendent has ended with a familiar face: former Assistant Superintendent Jody Monroe.
Monroe has worked as an administrator in the district for the past 11 years, starting as the district’s middle school principal in 2005, and serving as its assistant superintendent since 2008.
Her appointment was made after in a community-involved process conducted by Capital Region BOCES, during which time Monroe served as the district’s interim superintendent.
Monroe will be officially appointed during the School Board’s meeting on Wednesday, May 18.
“I’m thrilled that the board had the confidence to appoint me to this position and that the staff here have supported it,” said Monroe. “We have a tremendous community that supports the schools here, so it makes it really enjoyable to have any position here.”
The board’s search began with two community forums held in the fall, followed by an online survey requesting feedback conducted last winter. A confidential nominating process was followed a formal application period for the position. Two 14-member community stakeholder groups, consisting of students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members, interviewed 13 candidates from around the country and reported their results to the board, who then interviewed five candidates. By the end of the process, Monroe was by far the clear winner.
“The board spent a lot of time deliberating to come to the conclusion we came to,” said President Matt Downey. “We had some really strong candidates, but Jody rose to the top.”
As the board’s members did not conduct the stake holder interviews or conduct the search process themselves, Downey said he and the board were removed from giving their colleague any preferential treatment.
“Jody was treated just like any other candidate,” said Capital Region BOCES Communication Specialist Sabre Sarnataro. All aspects of the process, including candidate nominations and observations made during the community forums and online surveys were kept secret. Even the stakeholders signed non-disclosure agreements to ensure they would not discuss the process with anyone.
“It’s something that BOCES does with every superintendent search, because they know candidates can then tailor their applications to what they read, if that information were public,” said Sarnataro. Community responses garnered during the process may be made public at a later date.
“People may have been rooting for her,” said Downey, “but it was a very open and transparent process… Jody has been in the classroom, she has been an administrator at the middle school level, and the district-wide level. Her strong curriculum background and student-focused philosophy made her an extremely strong candidate, as did her experience with the district.”
Interestingly, although Monroe has now achieved essentially the highest career in essentially the highest career in the school district, becoming a superintendent was never her goal.
“I don’t think most students go into education thinking ‘I was to be a superintendent,’” said Monroe. “You just don’t think that way… At least I didn’t. As I got into teaching and coaching, I kind of got into some leadership positions, and a mentor mentioned I should get an administrative degree. Then I became an assistant principal, then principal, then assistant superintendent… If you had asked me maybe 20 years ago if I wanted to become a superintendent, I probably would have said no.”
Monroe has simply enjoyed her time in every role leading up to her latest appointment.
“I loved teaching, I loved coaching, and I loved being a principal. I just like the school environment, and I like being around kids.”
As assistant superintendent, Monroe’s main role was to design curriculum – a skill she plans to bring with her as superintendent. She believes it is the school administration’s role to prepare students for the future.
“Obviously when I was hired 11 years ago, things were a lot different,” explained Monroe. “I think you have to be responsive to what’s happening in the larger community and recognize what our kids need career-wise and prepare them for that. What are students today going to be doing ten or 15 years from now? As a superintendent, you have to be really aware of what’s going on in the world that our kids are going to be a part of.”
Monroe has already started conversations with the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce to create partnerships for this purpose, by making it easier for students to intern while attending the district’s schools. Many students, especially seniors, have asked for this opportunity, and Monroe hopes to put measures in place to make the process easier.
As superintendent, Monroe is also a member of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce board. She has also taken on new, greater responsibilities, such as her role as liaison with local politicians.
Still, Monroe plans to make it her goal to visit as many classrooms as possible.
“In any administrative position, you have to remind yourself why you’re all here, so I like to do as many classroom visits as I can. When you walk into a kindergarten class, and the kids all want to come to close to hear you read, it’s a nice reminder of why we’re all here. It’s something I haven’t been able to do as much as I’ve liked, but I’ve still been able to do a significant number of class visits.”
“Moving ahead as superintendent, I will still make sure that I am in the building and in the classrooms as much as I can, because I do feel like that’s really important,” said. Monroe.
A job listing to find the district’s next assistant superintendent was posted the same day as Monroe’s appointment was made public. The posting will be live for the next several weeks and will be open for anyone to apply. The district hopes to fill the position by July 1.