November 15, 2018
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New school superintendent promises ‘transparency’

File | The York Weekly
File | The York Weekly
Incoming York school superintendent Louis Goscinski.

Louis Goscinski said there are many personal and professional reasons why he applied to become York’s next superintendent of schools. Then, after what he called an “honest and transparent” selection process, he found even more reasons to accept the post.

“I learned a lot about the people on the school board, in the community, on the staff, and a lot about the students,” he said. “York feels like a small town to me. From meeting folks, I had a real sense of community and support for schools. I felt like these are down to earth folks, who care about providing a good education for the town’s children.”

Goscinski, currently the superintendent of School Administrative Unit 13 in Tamworth, New Hampshire, was offered the job of York’s next superintendent following a unanimous vote of the School Committee at its April 4 meeting.

Goscinski has held his current position since July 2012. He has taught at the elementary school level, taught and administered special needs students in a private setting, and served as a principal of a learning collaborative.

Before taking his position with SAU 13, he served as director of special education and director of pupil personnel services in two New Hampshire school districts, and is currently an adjunct professor at Plymouth State University, where he is a graduate lecturer in special education. He has a Masters degree in education and is working toward his doctorate.

There’s no doubt, said Goscinski, that the York School Department’s struggles with special education over the years was a key in his decision to apply for the superintendent’s post. Not only has he spent much of his professional career in special education, he also has an adult child with special needs, “so I’ve seen this from both an educator’s and a parent’s perspective,” he said.

“I saw this as an opportunity. The issues occurring in York are not unique. They happen in school districts around the country. York has done a lot to improve this situation, and I have some ideas that I think could help, too.”

During the search process, he met with a focus group of special education parents. “Frankly, I was impressed with them. They were quite candid with me about some of the issues they saw. They were honest and I enjoyed hearing what they had to say.”

The fact is, he said, “we want parents to be assertive. We want to embrace that and work collaboratively with them.” He said when he was a special education administrator, he undertook a year-long study of the achievement gap between special and regular education. As part of the work, he surveyed parents. “They had real concerns,” he said. As a result, parents took training through New Hampshire-based Parent Information Center on Special Education, “and two parents in particular became some of our greatest allies.”

“I’m not afraid of negative feedback. I see that as an opportunity for growth,” he said.

He said over the years, he has been able to secure state grants for his schools — for instance a $400,000 grant to deal with mold remediation and another $86,000 grant for school security measures — and would be looking for similar opportunities in York.

“There’s no reason in my mind, even though York is considered a wealthy town, that you can’t look for grant money to offset taxes,” he said. He said his efforts were appreciated by the municipal budget committee with which he dealt, adding that he has always had a good relationship with that committee.

“I take great pride in developing a really good relationship with the budget committee here,” he said. “It takes time to build. But in the last two years, the school board and the budget committee have unanimously supported the budget. Listen, I’m a taxpayer and I understand how this affects my own pocketbook.”

Overarching it all, he said, the members of the York community with whom he met said they want “someone who is transparent and up front. That’s kind of who I am. I don’t hide things.”

On the personal side, he said he has a lot of reasons for wanting to be in the Seacoast area. He grew up in Dover, New Hampshire, and two of his grown children live there now while another lives in Portsmouth. He said his mother’s side of the family is from South Berwick, and he spent a lot of time there.

“We used to go to York a lot. The first date with my wife in 1977 was in York Beach. I asked if I could hold her hand and the rest his history,” he said.

His wife is currently a teacher in Strafford, New Hampshire, so he spends weekdays in the Tamworth area and comes down to his home in Dover, New Hampshire, on the weekends. “It got old. I’m looking forward to settling back into life on the Seacoast. My kids are all adults, but I miss them greatly,” he said.

School Committee members said they are pleased that Goscinski has agreed to take the helm in York.

“We are fortunate to have secured a superintendent of his caliber and reputation,” said Superintendent Search Committee co-chair Dick Bachelder. “He had significant special education experience, which was noted. I was impressed with his experience, and he’s a warm guy, a likable man. And we felt and feel the district can use someone pretty steady right now.”

“Mr. Goscinski’s breadth of experience, extensive educational background, outstanding references, and recognition from parent groups were key to the committee unanimously selecting him. He is genuine, approachable, and is known for building positive relationships with others,” said co-chair Brenda Alexander.

Goscinski was one of two finalists for the job. The other finalist, Montpelier, Vermont superintendent Brian Ricca, unexpectedly resigned his position recently, following an executive session with the Montpelier Board of School Commissioners. Alexander said it was important for the community to know that the search committee had already narrowed its choice to Goscinski prior to the announcement that Ricca had resigned his position.

Goscinski is scheduled to begin his tenure with the York School Department on July 1.

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