09/27/14 12:00pm
Greenport superintendent David Gamberg at Monday night's Board of Education meeting. (Credit: jen Nuzzo)

Superintendent David Gamberg during a Greenport school board meeting earlier this month. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

An African proverb speaks about the importance of embracing the wisdom of someone who is new to a place, who can see and bring fresh ideas, along with someone who may have the wisdom born out of experience, having lived through the challenges of figuring out how best to do something.

I start this school year as school superintendent for both the Southold and Greenport school systems. I welcome this opportunity to serve two wonderful school communities with the hope that our collective wisdom will lead to an enriching experience for the students, families, and taxpayers I serve. (more…)

05/02/14 6:00am
David Gamberg during a school board meeting in Southold. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

David Gamberg during a school board meeting in Southold. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

What would make the most sense about developing and promoting the necessary ingredients for a high-quality public education system in the United States? Would it be an agenda made up of the highest standards possible? Of course, but in and of itself this would fall short of a full-bodied agenda for success. (more…)

09/02/13 4:00pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Southold Union Free School District superintendent David Gamberg at a board of education meeting earlier this year.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Southold Union Free School District superintendent David Gamberg at a board of education meeting earlier this year.

As we embark on the start of a new school year, educators must remain deeply committed to the vision of having our students further develop the skills, habits of mind and dispositions that will allow them to thrive both in and outside of school. Ultimately, we must be mindful of the core elements of our mission.

Nurturing a climate in each and every classroom, activity and moment with the caring adults of any school is a key ingredient to success. We must continue to impart the knowledge and inquiry into subject matter, as well as create a thirst for finding a place in the world that should be the hallmark of every quality school. All stakeholders should become part of the ongoing dialogue that allows us to work collaboratively toward realizing the mission and vision of each school district.

Preparations are well underway for the opening of school throughout the North Fork. I now find myself taking the time to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead. While doing so, I am mindful of what we must celebrate in terms of all that we should afford our students to learn and grow. Communities must steadfastly protect opportunities for students to discover more about themselves and the world around them in academics, the arts and extracurricular activities. These valuable experiences collectively educate the whole child.

It is no secret that during the past few years we have witnessed major challenges to the status quo in education and throughout our larger society. Within education, those who are charged with the responsibility of engaging students for an unknown future have been subjected to an untold number of calls to “change the way we do business.” The pressure to perform permeates throughout the schoolhouse, from 8- and 9-year-olds to the most veteran of educators.

There is no shortage of opinions as to the culprits that conspire to blame public education for the economic, political and social ills that we confront in a democratic society.

Horace Mann, considered the father of American education, famously said, “The public school is the greatest discovery made by man.” I still believe this to be true and now, more than ever, I work each day to strengthen the covenant between our schools and the community that we serve. To paraphrase Dr. Haim Ginott, no system or technology, however sophisticated it may be, can replace the enduring value of building rapport between a teacher and a child.

I do not feign progress, nor do I reject the use of powerful learning tools and protocols that have developed over many decades of research and study.   We must become learning organizations, flexible and dynamic places that aspire to uphold the values of our community and the integrity of the teaching profession. Yes, there are many competing views of how to accomplish this — a return to the good old days, a desire to change with the times, face a new reality or continue to hold out for a vision of what we have yet to realize.

At a time when powerful interests claim to have the formula for fixing what is wrong with public education from the tip of Long Island to the New York State border with Canada and every school community in between, I would submit that each locality has an obligation to chart its own course, mindful of seeking to discover the essential elements of a quality education. What works in one community may or may not work in another, so it is not simply a matter of creating a cookie-cutter approach in defining such qualities.

As we begin this school year we welcome kindergartners, or the class of 2026, and we move toward the final phase of a 13-year journey with our high school seniors. Challenges were, are and always will be a part of what is experienced in a given school year — whether by local or global events, changes in technology or any other factor that impacts our daily lives.

I look forward to the school year with a renewed determination to maintain the interests of our students, staff, families and communities as we look to the future while having a reverence for the rich heritage of the North Fork.

Mr. Gamberg is the superintendent of the Southold Union Free School District.

03/23/13 12:06pm
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Students in Ms. Salmaggi's class work with iPads Tuesday morning at Southold High School.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Students in Ms. Salmaggi’s class work with iPads in December at Southold High School.

I like to say good morning to our students. No, actually I love saying good morning to our students.

When I say this I mean to several hundred students as they arrive, and not a few as I may see them passing in the hall. It’s a simple act that has a powerful set of returns. Normally I greet the students who arrive by bus, but recently I took this simple act a step further and held the door open to those high school students who are dropped off, or who drive to school. They slowly trickled in at one of the entrances to our secondary building, perhaps surprised that the superintendent of schools was there to hold the door open and greet them with a smile.

At a time when budgets are straining, security of our public spaces are practicing lockdowns, lockouts, active shooter and evacuation drills, or as the pressure to perform on standardized tests ratchets up, it’s all the more important to demonstrate the importance of common decency and courtesy. The civility of our engagement with our youth is perhaps under the greatest strain of all.

Sure, I have many other pressing matters, all attenuated to the items that every school system must address. I must gather data to inform decisions that will impact the education of all students. But one set of data that I find important is to study the faces of our students, and to listen carefully to the tone of their disposition as they arrive at school to start a day of learning and growing.

Do they appear sad and withdrawn? Is there a sense of possibility and promise, a hopeful spirit filled with curiosity? To greet them early each morning is to get a glimpse into their hearts and souls. Some say good morning, others say hi, while others may still be a bit sleepy. There are those however, who have the demeanor of disengagement. Of the few hundred students that I greet, my mind wonders who is hurting inside.

Recently our school community had the misfortune of not seeing one of those faces entering our high school building. I am extremely pleased that our student is no longer missing.

The question still remains: How do we best prevent whatever hurt may be inside a young person’s heart that would keep them from coming to a safe place greeted with a smile, eager to journey down a path that respects them, stimulates their curiosity about life and leads them toward a better understanding of the world around them and their place within it? There are many pieces to such a complex puzzle.

The current zeal to rank, order, weed out, poke, prod and race to the top is no way to figure this out. Of this I’m sure.

Let’s take the time to be there, fully present, genuinely evaluating the whole child. Let’s start by everyone giving an unranked, non-rubric-scored, simple “good morning” each and every day that we have the good fortune to work in the company of children.

Mr. Gamberg is superintendent of Southold School District.

03/02/12 5:00pm

BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | Southold Superintendent David Gamberg.

I invite you to think back, not to your favorite teacher, but to the one who was most effective.

Chances are that despite our chosen paths in life, we come away with some common threads that run through what we all experienced when we learned from an effective teacher. The ability to inspire us, relate to us, hold us accountable for our actions and treat us with dignity would probably stand out.

Even if we preferred teachers who were strict and dispensed tough love, we knew we were treated fairly and those teachers were doing their best for us. These qualities led to learning important lessons that serve us well as adults.

Now fast-forward to the latest plan to measure teacher and principal effectiveness. New York has joined with other states around the country to impose a system of measurement that on first blush appears to be long overdue. Known as the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), the system of evaluation is a multifaceted approach to review all aspects of educator performance and includes the use of student test scores as a factor in rating performance. There is no doubt that education stands to improve in order to meet the demands of a highly competitive society, however there are many unforeseen consequences of this ill-conceived system.

It’s all too easy to look around and blame kids, parents, teachers and others for not having the qualities that we saw in evidence during the good old days. I do not for a moment deny that contemporary society (within which schools and education exist) is undergoing transformative changes in business, culture and civic life. Not all of this may be seen as progress.

The demands of our community at a local as well as a national level call for change and/or a return to a civility that seems absent from our current dialogue on so many levels. So much that we see and hear is an affront to our senses. However, the new, more punitive “fix” for our schools does more harm than good.

Those aspects of our curriculum that promote critical thinking, a strong work ethic and the ability to solve complex problems stand to lose as a result of this evaluation system. When given the choice between preparing for one test that will be used as part of the way to measure teacher performance or having students take the time to develop the skills and attributes used in work and citizenship, both teachers and principals will focus time and resources on preparing children for high stakes tests that take place on just a handful of days out of the school year.

Preparation for a music concert, project-based learning and other authentic, purposeful student engagement will give way to an over-reliance on test preparation. A generation of our youth may pass the tests, but fail to become the civic-minded, entrepreneurial citizens that our nation demands for future success.

I recently looked at old documents found in the school district office dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. These artifacts showed students performing in plays, teachers working together, celebrations of the arts, debating teams and the like — all of which will suffer when we place a narrow band of being successful around our modern day definition of educating our youth. I’m concerned with what this will do both now and in the future.

The promise of having young men and women mature and become thoughtful citizens who deepen their understanding of the world through a curiosity promoted by their teachers will not be advanced under a regime that seeks to stigmatize and punish. In a recent New York Times opinion piece even Bill Gates, a harsh critic of the old system of teacher evaluation, cautions against shaming educators by publishing teacher scores in the media. If this is not the solution, where should we look to improve?

Look no further than at the effects of real school reform that has taken place in Finland over the past 30 to 40 years. There’s no comparable APPR in that system. They regularly outperform much of the rest of the world (including the U.S.) in reading, math and science, and they do so with grace and integrity.

There are examples of the qualities that are associated with effective teaching practices in the United States, but these pockets of excellence will retreat from the pursuit of exemplary work in the face of potential public humiliation.

The consequence of this effort to “reform” education is to drive money, energy and attention into a thinly focused set of criteria at the expense of promoting the best in what we want, deserve and expect in our students who graduate our schools. We want our students to appreciate and value hard work, dedication, commitment and the ability to successfully challenge themselves to become their own personal best. Much of this cannot be measured under the new system.

Education cannot be exempt from necessary changes that are well under way in one industry after another. The rapidly changing conditions in the economy represent a challenge and opportunity to improve, but these improvements must be carefully constructed, based upon the best evidence at hand.

It has been said that success leaves clues. We should look around the world to see such success that must be emulated in an effort to promote the best in our schools. The newly enacted fix for education in New York State is not reflective of that evidence.

Mr. Gamberg is superintendent of Southold Schools.