Lee Molyneaux is a veteran of the Saugerties Central School District. Since 1997, he has worked as a physical education teacher, coach, athletic director and assistant principal at the high school.
As assistant principal for the ninth and tenth grades, one of his responsibilities is discipline. This is a double-edged sword for Molyneaux; the most fulfilling part of the job comes when he sees a student who had struggled with behavior or academic problems “turn it around and graduate,” but it’s “incredibly frustrating for everyone” when such a student can’t be reached and persists on the wrong path.
Molyneaux says there are many options in place to help students change their behaviors, including the redirect room, which is staffed with a social worker and a teacher. A teacher can send a student here to cool down or get some counseling for a problem that is causing the student to act out, whether it is a conflict with another student or a problem at home. This room is used primarily by the younger students in the building, since the majority of the older students have their own set of tools and techniques to avert a problem.
When Molyneaux interviews potential substitute teachers, another of his duties as assistant principal, he always asks about how the teacher would handle behavior problems in the classroom. He says he doesn’t do it to frighten potential substitutes, but to assess their reactions to a “worst possible scenario” situation.
Molyneaux says there are rarely such dire behavioral situations in the building, and he attributes that partly to the Saugerties community. Because it is a tight-knit small town, everyone knows everyone else. This has a positive effect on student behavior because students know that word of their activities could spread very quickly. Further, because of the length of Molyneaux’s service in the building, he has had dealings with many of the students’ cousins or siblings, which helps him to relate to them on a different level. Of his lengthy tenure, Molyneaux is quick to point out, “I haven’t been here long enough to say ‘I knew your parents.’ That’s going to be a bad day for me.”
With many changes to the educational climate in New York State this year, including the Common Core curriculum and a new teacher evaluation system, Molyneaux’s role has evolved, too. He is now responsible for observing and evaluating approximately 25 of the building’s educators. Although there was some anxiety on the part of everyone involved last year, now the staff has begun to feel more comfortable with this new system. Molyneaux says he is “in the classroom observing more than ever before,” which has been enjoyable not only for him, but also many of the classroom teachers who have invited him back to see the fantastic work that happens in their rooms.
Of the controversial Common Core, Molyneaux says the teachers he has observed have embraced it and are doing the best they can. This is reflected in their lesson plans and the way that they run their classes. He stresses, “they do wonderful work.”