5 Questions: Matt Landahl

By Jeff Simms

Matt Landahl is in his first year as superintendent of the Beacon City School District.

Matt Landahl (Photo by J. Simms)

What’s your take on the pace of development in Beacon?
The school board will handle the politics of development. I see my job as supplying information when it’s asked for and doing my best to plan. If there are more students, I need to work with the board and the community to prepare for that. If it’s shrinking enrollment, I’ll prepare for that, as well.

Can the district handle more students?
We’re studying that right now. At the secondary level, the middle and high schools are not at max capacity. Some of the elementary schools might have a room or two that could be repurposed as a classroom, but I don’t think there’s a huge amount of wiggle room. When we did the capital project this fall, we talked about being positioned financially to do another one in five or six years. If Beacon adds students, that will be part of planning for that project.

Part of the district is located in Fishkill. Is there any concern about growth there?
I’m in contact with Bob LaColla, the Fishkill town supervisor, on a regular basis. Any development that will have an impact on our district, I have to make sure we’re prepared.

What can the district do better?
Last year the Board of Education established five goals. Communication between the district and the community was a big one. We have a lot of teachers who are doing great things with technology but as a district we’re working to put systems in place to support that. We want to start a pilot program in which every student at Rombout Middle School is given a laptop computer to use. There’s interest in adding a second world language at the secondary level besides Spanish. There’s also interest in expanding our music and arts programs. And we’d like to further reduce class size at the elementary level. We want to increase the diversity of our staff but we also want to create a culture of safety, equality and awareness. These aren’t necessarily glaringly deficient areas, but that’s where our energy has been.

You hosted a handful of community forums last year. How did they go?
One of the main takeaways was a desire to have steady and strong leadership at the superintendent level. I’ve always felt that what underlies that is a sense of trust, so I’ve been trying to lay the groundwork for a trusting relationship in the district and in the community. A lot of that starts with being visible and trying to be a good listener. I have a long-haul view and I try to spend a lot of time on the relationship building at the beginning and then grow programs and expand opportunities. I feel like it’s going pretty well. It’s been a good six months.

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