The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

April 29, 2011


An up-close look at Dr. Paul Kreutzer


By DON HEPPNER

SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

Dr. Paul Kreutzer, new Katonah-Lewisboro superintendent

 

Paul Kreutzer, superintendent of the New Berlin School District for the past four years, was unanimously named the superintendent of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District by the school board, despite vociferous criticism from the teachers union and some residents.

Local educators rallied Tuesday in Cross River to protest the Katonah-Lewisboro school board’s hiring of New Berlin, Wisconsin, school superintendent Paul Kreutzer, whom the teachers labeled as a strong supporter and political partner of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“I am not anti-union,” Dr. Kreutzer said in an interview this week. “Busting unions is just not on my agenda. I am not political. I have no agenda except to provide the best possible education to the students,” he said.

Dr. Kreutzer said that he intends to collaborate with teachers to achieve academic goals. He knows where he stands on issues surrounding unions, and he knows where the Katonah-Lewisboro school board stands on the question of unionism and collective bargaining. “It is just not an issue for me,” he said. “I have no anti-union sentiment.”

Dr. Kreutzer said that standing with Gov. Walker gave him a precious opportunity to meet with the governor one on one after the rally. “I was able to address many issues between the state and school districts,” he said. “I would not have had that opportunity if I was not there.”

Dr. Kreutzer said that improving the opportunity for students to learn in the district is on his agenda, and he said that he was able to accomplish positive changes in the New Berlin district and expects to do the same in Katonah-Lewisboro. “Test scores went up; delinquency went down,” Dr. Kreutzer said.

Contrary to eliminating union jobs, he said that he was able to keep teaching jobs in New Berlin by asking teachers to contribute more to their benefit plans. Dr. Kreutzer said that the increase in the contribution to benefit plans saved enough money in the district to retain teaching positions that would have been lost.

“We will not lay off a single employee for financial reasons in New Berlin,” Dr. Kreutzer said. “That’s different than a year ago, when we were faced with laying off approximately 30 teaching staff.”

He said he recognizes the rift that has been created between the teachers union and him, but he said that the path to mending the rifts in the district is based on trust that he said would come after reliable, truthful behavior over a period of time.

Another issue has followed the future superintendent of schools. An incident allegedly occurred at New Berlin West High School in March of this year, according to a blog created by Linda Richter, a former school board member.

Dr. Kreutzer spotted a male student, according to Ms. Richter, who had his head down on the desk and was sleeping during a study hall period in the cafeteria. Displeased with a sleeping child, Dr. Kreutzer confronted the boy and asked for his ID. The study hall supervisor, a 10-year New Berlin public school employee, was subsequently confronted and reportedly reduced to tears.

“This story about an incident involving a child in the cafeteria has been the source of smear,” Mr. Kreutzer said. “A lot of the misinformation came from a blogger who lost a school board election and will print any complaint about the district.” 

He said that he did not yell at the student or the staffer, but was concerned about the child sleeping during study hall. The incident was addressed, and the sleeping student’s parents thanked him for his attention to the matter.

He said that it was annoying not only because it was not true but because he was prohibited from responding and telling his side, since a student was involved and policy dictates that student issues cannot be discussed publicly.

Dr. Kreutzer expressed some frustration at the way some people in the district are learning about him. “If you want to know what I think on an issue, ask me,” he said.

He said that he responds to email.

Dr. Kreutzer spent a busy day Tuesday meeting in the district with members of the various PTOs, parents and students in the district and said that many people asked him good questions and expressed hope for the future. He said that everyone was cordial.

“I didn’t win everyone over,” he said, “but we had good conversations. People were talking in the future tense and were very welcoming.”

Dr. Kreutzer said that he was offered several positions throughout the country, but chose the Katonah-Lewisboro opportunity because he liked what he saw here and he wants to be a part of the system.


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