Ward Back to Work
Ward Takes on New Duties at Allegany-Limestone
By Nicholas Pircio
He retired earlier this year as school superintendent at Ellicottville Central School. And, he’s not really coming out of retirement. But Mark Ward, like a few others before him, Austin Leahy and Michael O’Brien come to mind, will tackle the job of interim superintendent. Ward becomes interim superintendent at Allegany-Limestone Central School as of Wednesday, November first. He says he will stay as long as he’s needed, to guide the ship so to speak, until the school board finds a replacement.
Ward has already met with Dr. Karen Geelan, who’s moving on from Allegany-Limestone to be school superintendent at Valhalla, New York, in Westchester County. Ward has also attended a high school faculty meeting and visited the elementary school. “I’ve acclimated myself with some of the staff, and some of the people working with the (ongoing) capital project, so that was helpful.” At this point, Ward says he’s just beginning the process of getting to know people, and how they do things at the Allegany-Limestone School system.
Ward was already somewhat familiar with Allegany-Limestone, having bordered them at three surrounding school districts, that is, in Salamanca, Olean, and Ellicottville. “But from outside the district, all you really know about them is from the paper, or from reading their newsletters, which I have done for the past nine years.” He says that Allegany-Limestone is an excellent school system. “They do an excellent job with their testing, and obviously, their soccer teams are good, they are sectional champions right now, so that’s pretty exciting.” Ward said he’s gotten some early insight as to the priorities of the ALCS district. “They sound good. I just hope to be able to maintain things and take care of anything that may need it.”
Will he continue what he liked to do at Ellicottville, visiting the classrooms and the various activities going on within the building? “I think so. I want people to know who I am. I think that’s important. I think the teachers need to know who the superintendent is. I’ll do my best to be in classrooms and hallways, and at events attended by the public. That’s my nature. Education is a people business, so relationships are huge. Even for a short term, they are important. Because educating kids at Allegany-Limestone isn’t going to be put on hold because we have an interim superintendent. We’ve got to keep moving forward. And we certainly want the teachers, students and the community to know that. That would be my expectation, and I’m sure that is their expectation.”
When asked about his philosophy on connecting jobs with kids, Ward said students need to be informed where the jobs are, and where the opportunities are. “The old idea that everybody has to go to a four-year college is not necessarily true. Kids who go to a two-year school should not feel they are less than somebody else. That certainly is not true. You might be better going into a field of study you like, and that there are opportunities for employment. And while getting a degree and working in say a pizza shop is OK, it is certainly underemployment.”
“Kids need to be given exposure to what opportunities are out there, because some of the jobs which these kids are going to have are just being created or developed. And certainly (this applies to) the kids now in the elementary grades.” Ward feels the Common Core is important in stressing the skills students need, so that they are capable of the higher-level thinking in math and certainly for technical writing, which is important to STEM learning. “There are also jobs available in the medical field. As we baby boomers get older, there will be more people needed to take care of us.”
Ward said he’s been fortunate to have been part of a field which he truly enjoys. “I like the opportunities I’ve had, and I wish that for people, that they can find an occupation and build on it.” Ward believes he is ready for the challenge facing him and his new team at Allegany-Limestone Central School.