Superintendent Amy Rex entered the halls of Milton Town School District the week of July 4. She spent the summer getting acclimated to the district and beginning to steer the ship of Milton schools.
Rex brings an extensive background in education with her, having served as a principal in multiple districts, a teacher and a counselor throughout her career.
The Indy posed a series of questions to the new superintendent to learn more about her philosophies and plans. Her abridged answers follow.
Q: What is your vision for MTSD, are there any changes you’d like to make?
A: None. Not that I don’t want to make any changes – I don’t know what kind of changes could be made yet. In looking at the vision that was developed back in 2017, it doesn’t identify student outcomes. A vision is what you hope to achieve in the future, and for a school district, it should center around, ‘What do you hope to achieve for students that are graduating?’ then you work backwards.
The first order of business that needs to be done, is to do some strategic planning. Once we have those goals for students we can see what that looks like in terms of any changes we need to make because those ends should guide everything. My ideal is to build some stability and long-term leadership … so that people feel unified and clear about the direction.
Q: How will your experience as a principal in several districts and as a classroom teacher serve you in this role?
A: My first experience was with a residential school. That experience informed the various conditions that some students live in. As a young person, it was really profound and it helped me walk in the shoes of all kinds of students.
That’s certainly one piece; the other is my strength in curriculum instruction and assessment. I’ve stayed very current. I love that design work.
As a principal I did a lot of work encouraging student voice and leadership at the program level. They were the best voice in terms of working with the parent cohort and with their peers.
It helped to be in a couple of districts where I felt I had really good mentors as superintendents, who ensured that we, as principals, were well-trained and aware of things around personnel or problem-solving. I had some really good modeling, and that certainly will be a transfer here in terms of how to get that work done.
Q: Budgets are tight across the state. How do you think you might prioritize spending within the district?
A: That’s a real team approach. Each of the building principals need to assess what are their needs, and then I work with them to prioritize. That also means coordinating between the needs of the buildings and the principals with the priorities of the board.
I want to be very careful about just utilizing the same budget process perhaps that’s been used in recent years. I think that’s a benefit of a new person coming in who wants to ensure that there’s continuity between the budgeting and programming and to really scrutinize ‘Has this budget looked the same for the last 10 years?’ If it has that’s kind of a problem, because things have changed. I am a firm believer that if you have had an operating budget that has served your needs then you can use that as your template to reallocate to serve new needs.
Q: Last year, Milton schools, as did much of the country, struggled with racial tensions. How do you plan to address these issues?
A: That is a building-based approach. The buildings have different aged children so it needs to be appropriate. It’s my understanding that students need to have very difficult conversations and to unveil the so-called elephant in the room. It doesn’t do anyone any good not to talk about it. It’s really only through dialogue that you can come to understanding, and it’s only through understanding that you can solve problems together.
Q: In today’s world, safety is a large concern for many people. How will the school district handle safety concerns?
A: It comes back to training. I think our facilities director is doing an amazing job with considering safety in terms of the structure of the building.
The principals and I went to a training over the summer around the ALICE protocol. There were so many great things that came out of the training. For decades we’ve been practicing fire drills. There should be as much automaticity with active shooter [drills] as there is with fire drills.
Our work this fall, probably starting in September, will be around our action plan which will include teacher training. We’ll do some more intensive training for them, like actually practice an active shooter drill without students in the building so that teachers are really comfortable and really understand how to do it.
Q: When you come to the end of your time at MTSD, how would you want people to characterize your time here?
A: I just would want them to be really happy. I like to think that if I’m doing good work then I’m inspiring others to do good work. I just really would want them to feel like ‘we know where we are, we still know where we’re gonna go even though she’s moving on and we know how to get there and how to do that work.’ I want people to feel all these, like if I’m moving on that they’re in a place where they can continue good work. Hopefully I’m doing good work. But then that they can continue that on.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I like to ride my bicycle, and in the winter time I like to Nordic ski. When I can’t ski and I can’t bicycle, I’ll hike or run. That really is my reflection time. I enjoy being in the woods and that quiet helps me think through the day and conversations. I certainly like to read. I don’t travel much but if I can get in one good trip a year I like to do something that’s sort of adventurous.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: I’m just really having fun so far. It’s been really great, and I feel very inspired by my leadership team. I’m excited to be working with them. I really look forward to the kids and the teachers coming into the building and getting to know them.