Albany Schools Superintendent Dr. Eva Joseph

By Ray Feliciano

Q: What are the duties of a school superintendent?

"It's the primary responsibility of the performance of the school district. Being part of a governance team (Board of Education) to establish goals, move the district forward, and all that goes into running an organization. Albany schools commit to quality and lifelong learning. The mission is to prepare all of its students for full and effective participation in our society. My role is to ensure our mission is met."

Q: How does one become school superintendent?

"There are certain qualifications, certifications, and experiences the boards of education look for when they hire a district leader. Ultimately, it's an appointment by the Board of Education."

Albany Schools Superintendent Dr. Eva Joseph - 40.61 K
Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Eva Joseph

Q: Is prior teaching experience required?

“The traditional path is looking for someone who has been a teacher, principal, instructional supervisor, or educator, who has grown through the ranks. The other less traditional path you find in large, urban areas. In smaller districts, and those akin to Albany, that educational spirit still counts a lot.”

Q: Who sets policy?

“The school board. Along with the superintendent, they are the governance team. Some things must be policy, dictated by the state. There are things the board feels strongly about and may establish its own policy. We establish administrative guidelines for what we will be done and how.”

Q: How is the position a blend being a business manager, teacher, and politician?

“An educational leader has mentoring as a part of it. I’m teaching, but professional development, providing and leading strategies to help staff grow. In terms of ‘business manager’, we are a business. Our budget, just adopted for 2005-2006 is over $157 million, a large budget for any business. So there is a certain level of business sense and fiscal management that goes with the job. As for the political end, boards of education are really not partisan politics, but neutral entities established to govern school districts. There are elected officials, so there is that element of constituency support. I work hard to avail myself of opportunities to lobby on behalf of the district and our students, and solicit or appreciate support of legislators and politicians who see the value of the educational system to the community.”

Q: How many years are accounted for when looking at future growth?

“For our current facilities project, we began our work in 1998. We looked as far as year 2013. Projection isn't’ just about the number of students and the facilities they’re housed in. We also set goals for academics, and that’s critical.”

Q: What do you consider an ideal class size?

“We have supported small class size. The federal government, when they provide a small class size, it’s no larger than 20, and the state no larger than 18. We hover around the 18 mark for a class with high needs and recognize there may be other public supports in the schools that assist. It depends on the particular class of students and grade level. Over the years we’ve been looking at ‘strategic class size reduction’. A particular class of students may present more needs than another. In our middle and secondary schools, classes run 20-25. With less individualized needs classes get a bit larger.”

Q: What are the steps to be a teacher in NY?

“A bachelor’s degree, and a minimum requirement a Master’s degree which can be obtained after employment, within a certain time period once you get your first teaching job. Also required is teacher certification granted by the NYS Education Dept. For that, there are certain requirements in terms of the educational experiences we have at a college, You take an exam to get permanent certification.”

“First have your credentials reviewed by the State Education Dept of Teacher Certification. They review transcripts, determine what qualifies and what is needed. If you have a science degree, you might not have the kind of internships to qualify. You might have some experience that might qualify-if you were a teaching assistant, had alternative employment. There are alternative certification opportunities that have specific steps to be followed to obtain certification. For questions and details contact Linda Jackson Chalmers, the HR Director.” (518) 462-7199.

Q: How are teachers taught to teach?

“They are taught to a variety of training experiences. The student internship is critical because it is experiential job-embedded training. It’s one thing to develop a plan/unit, and another to deliver and see it’s effect. Some have an inherent skill, yet so many are in the supply and demand that it almost requires us to call that expertise out of people. I know that institutions of higher education, particularly colleges we have, work closely with us to build, train, and sustain a quality teaching course.”

Q: Are creating lesson plans and curriculum development covered in college for teachers?

“Yeah. There’s the science of it, then there’s the craft. The district does quite a bit in terms of providing guidance for what to teach, how to teach it, providing them with professional development and the resources needed to ensure a quality workforce. While in college, students learn fundamentals about how to plan and prepare, as well as delivering instruction. It’s another to deliver that lesson and bring the students the elements of the craft of teaching so they are engaged.”

Q: How is teacher effectiveness reviewed?

“We have an ‘Annual Professional Performance Review’ that applies to every teacher every year. It entails observations, conferencing with their supervising administrator, and self-reflection and self-evaluation.”

Q: Are grade assessments of students who don’t show up for class included for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to meet performance standards?

“In grades 4 and 8, for the ELA (English Language Arts) and the math assessments, every student counts. The NCLB says that 95% of the students enrolled in that class must take the test. Just participation itself is the element we’re measuring-forget what grade they got. If we have 100 students in grade 4 in one of our schools, and only 90 get to take the test, we have not met the standard and we are held accountable.”

Q: How have Albany schools improved recently?

"We received our ELA results for grade 4 and 8 for 2005-the tests administered this past January. In our elementary schools we are making gains, virtually across the board. For schools traditionally considered not making gains, there was some large growth. Our middle schools are relatively flat. We are not alone in NYS in terms of middle school performance, which is why we are looking forward to our middle school plan to take hold in September. It gives us an opportunity to change the face of middle level education in Albany."

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Dr. Eva Joseph meets with FBA founder, Ray Feliciano
(Photo - Kimberly Feliciano)

Q: What is the difference between a private school and a charter school?

“It comes down to funding. Private schools charge tuition. To some extent they are regulation free. A charter school is considered a publicly funded private school. They are regulation free, but they do have accountability under NCLB, yet are funded by public tax dollars.”

Q: How do charter schools effect public schools?

“The spirit of the legislation is to have competition for the public schools to get better. Also, there’s sentiment that public education has a monopoly on choices students have, and charter schools could create other opportunities. Our experience in Albany is different. First, there is a large number of charter schools here. Second, charter schools have not demonstrated anything from a competitive arena. Before charter schools we had 4 magnet school opportunities as well as an open enrollment policy. A large number of charter schools have become a detraction, and I would submit that most emanate from one foundation, so who’s to say there’s not a monopoly on charter schools in Albany as well?”

Q: Every 6 students who leave is one less teacher?

“That’s correct. Some say it’s all about the money, but it isn’t. Charter schools have not proven to be successful, yet we are being deprived of resources for the students we serve daily to fund them. For each child that leaves it’s about $9,332. We don’t close a class or eliminate a teacher because 6 students left. Six times $9,332 is the cost of a teacher.”

Q: What is a magnet school?

“A magnet school has been a long-standing type of choice option. The original intent was racial balance, and to give a little background, a school that had been traditionally low performing and/or racially segregated were directed monies via a school district plan to create a unique and academically strong opportunity that had a theme focus. It was an attraction, so it became a ‘magnet’ to help that school break the racial isolation or segregation. At times it’s federally supported. Right now we sustain our efforts with state funding. There is a lot of district contribution.”

Q: Are schools offering less arts and civics?

“We are not offering less. Our art and music programs are strong. I think it’s individualized based on student need, but we have not lost any focus on sustaining strong arts and music programs.”

Q: What about sex and drug education?

“The District's elementary health education program is ‘Know Your Body’, a comprehensive, skills-based integrated program that includes units on healthy relationships, sex education, AIDS/HIV education, and drug education. It is a k-6 program. Our sex education k-12 is abstinence based. At the secondary level we address both sex ed and drug education in a skills-based format. Our programs are based on and aligned with NYS standards.”

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of your job?

“Sometimes having areas that we need to improve emphasized more than the excellent things happening that surpass so many expectations.”

Q: What is the biggest challenge the district faces now that the budget has passed?

“Getting mid-level programs up and running in a successful way, and ensuring we are realizing the plan so we can have a strong mid-level program- that is our immediate challenge. Also looking at our high school restructuring, and thinking about doing something different with our facilities for a stronger educational program. We’ll be coming forward in the 2006 school year with a referendum to change the high school facilities to have a basis for providing a stronger learning program and smaller learning communities for our high school students.”

Q: What would you like our readers to know?

“About the school district. Albany schools are ambitiously moving forward in a way that says we take responsibility for our students and the families in our communities very seriously. I know our community in many respects sees the school district as a vital force, and I hope that message is sustained.”

Q: What is your education and background?

“I’ve spent a long time in education. An educator since 1978, and I’ve held a variety of positions, and spent many years in central office at the superintendent’s cabinet level as the Assistant Superintendent.”

Dr. Joseph has several college degrees, the latest is a Doctorate in Education Administration from Columbia University, a Certificate of Advanced Study from the State University of New York (Portland), a Masters degree from State University of Ohio.

City School District of Albany
1 Academy Park, Albany, NY 12207
(518) 462-7100