Back in the summer of 2017, when Matthew Landahl was moving to the Beacon City School District from his post as deputy superintendent for the Ithaca City School District, there was also a shift at the national level as the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, stepped into place. Locally in Beacon, change in the district had been happening quickly, with the resignation of one superintendent, followed by an interim superintendent, then the election of new Board of Education members, and The Big Search for Beacon's next superintendent.
Matthew Landahl (who asks to be called Matt) was vetted and hired. He promptly kicked off a Community Conversation tour to connect with the people of Beacon at different locations. At that time, we reached out to him to learn more about his suggestions for ways to stay up to date on the myriad of public school issues to know about. And then I had a baby, so most articles got promptly shifted out of order. We're ready to dive back into this one, offering a new opportunity to ask him about his experience now that he is several months into the job.
ALBB: What have you observed in the district and community so far?
ML: After being here a few months, a few things have been very evident here in Beacon. The community has a creative and entrepreneurial spirit which is incredible. We have lived in several places, and Beacon is unique in that regard. The community also has a strong "roll up your sleeves" ethic in regards to volunteering and making things happen, which I really admire. In the school district, I am honored to work every day with a group of teachers, administrators, and staff who take great pride in what they do and show a great amount of care for the young people in Beacon. Speaking of those young people, they are an amazing, diverse group.
ALBB: What are you actively working on?
ML: My work is primarily centered on the Board of Education's goals. They are available on our website but my abridged version is this:
- Increase academic offerings
- Provide 21st-century learning environments
- Build trust between district and community through communication
- To seek involvement, collaboration, and participation of the community in the learning process
- Creating a culture of awareness, equality, and safety
My focus is always on all five goals, but I have put a primary emphasis on Community Building and Communication. I have hosted six Community Conversations throughout Beacon, and attended organizational meetings and church services all with the intent of being visible, approachable, and to display an honest desire to hear all community members' thoughts and concerns regarding the district. I will keep that work up all year.
We have worked hard to create more presence on social media through Facebook and Twitter. We now have a district Twitter account (@beaconcsd) along with having all sports teams tweeting from games along with our athletic department (@bcsdbulldogs). I try to document my travels through the district with my personal Twitter account (@mlandahl). I know we have a long way to go in regards to communication, but we have made some great first steps. Ultimately, the most important focus is our young people's experience in our schools. I will always be working in collaboration with staff and community to provide a more engaging, enriching, and empowering environment for everyone.
ALBB: What do you keep an eye on at the state and federal levels that you would encourage Beacon parents and community members to also follow?
ML: It is a very tumultuous time in education from a policy perspective at both the state and federal level and honestly, it has been that way for the past 15 years. The quickest thing I do to stay on top of policy issues and changes at the state and federal level is I follow several professional organizations on both Twitter and Facebook: the New York State School Boards Association (@NYSSBA), New York State Council of Superintendents (@NYSCOSS), New York State United Teachers (@NYSUT) and the School Administrators Association of New York State (@SAANYS).
All of these organizations have people who closely follow state and federal policy and funding issues who report out to their constituents and to the public on social media. I like to follow all four organizations because they all have slightly different views on the policy and funding situation in New York. Twitter is a very powerful social media tool in the education world, and I follow over a thousand educators (along with all things Chicago Cubs) from all over the country and world who also give me a sense of how policy changes are impacting their local districts, schools, and classrooms.
Another great place to learn about policy and funding issues is the Beacon City School District Board of Education meetings. They are published on Youtube on the BCSDBOE channel. These meetings consistently have discussions about policy and funding at the state level and how it impacts our district.