New DVSD superintendent sketches his path

Milford. Dr. Brian Blaum, new Delaware Valley School District superintendent, previously director of secondary education, answered some questions about where he came from and what his plans are in an email Q and A.

| 17 Jan 2023 | 01:12

Could you provide some background? Where did you grow up and go to high school and college?

I have lived in northeastern Pennsylvania my entire life. I attended both the Western Wayne and Wallenpaupack School Districts, ultimately graduating from Western Wayne in 2000. I graduated from Marywood University with a degree in Comprehensive Social Sciences/Secondary Education in 2004. I earned my Master’s Degree from Wilkes University and my Ph.D. from Marywood University.

How did your early surroundings influence your direction?

Growing up, my father was a social studies teacher, athletic director and head football coach. My mother worked for the Chamber of Commerce in Wayne County. While playing baseball in college, I had the opportunity to work with young players and fell in love with coaching and teaching.

Did you have a previous vision for yourself?

I originally enrolled in college as a Pre-Law major but after three semesters decided that I would be much happier with a career in education.

What did you teach, and what effects, beyond learning what was required, did you aim to have on your students?

I was a middle school social studies teacher for two years before being transferred to the high school. I started both our Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics and Advanced Placement Comparative Politics course. I found a passion for teaching high school students the inner workings of government and how to develop their own unique political identities. I aimed to open their eyes to their government and find ways to make a difference instead of being a passive observer.

What, specifically, have been your aims as an administrator?

I never saw myself leaving the classroom; however, after taking a few graduate courses in Educational Leadership, I began to believe that I can have a more widespread positive influence on our students from an administrative position than remaining in the classroom.

What innovations have you brought to DVSD?

After over a decade as a member of the administrative team, there are many innovations that I’ve helped to facilitate for the district. As mentioned, I started two new AP courses in the high school. I also started the procedure of reimbursing students who pass their AP exams for the amount of the test fee. I led a goal to change our traditional library into a more modern Learning Commons area, such that you might see on a college campus. I was also heavily involved in modernizing our Career and Technical Education programs in the high school.

What changes and innovations do you have in mind as superintendent?

I think before making changes to our district, I need to become much more familiar with the rest of the campus, particularly our buildings that are not located on the main campus. I have had the pleasure of working with our administrative team for many years and I am really looking forward to hearing from them, as well as our teachers, on what changes they believe we should pursue.

What do you hope to accomplish in your first six months or year?

I hope to be present for our teachers and staff around the district. As we face impending retirements, I will also be focused on transitioning new members into our administrative team.

How will you address conflicts around books?

Anyone in our community now has a mechanism to share any concern about books the school is using and those concerns are discussed among the appropriate stakeholders within our district.

To what extent will research on the effects of the kinds of materials involved play a role in decision-making?

Our professionals conduct extensive research on the materials selected for instructional purposes and will continue to do so.

Similarly, with sex education, to what extent will recent research play a role? What will deciding factors be?

We will continue to cover the standards required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in any Health-related curricula.

What is the plan for getting students caught up academically from the pandemic lag that has afflicted students across the country?

The first step is identifying specifically what areas Delaware Valley students are lagging in. Thankfully, the early data we have seen indicates that our students have not suffered to the extent we see in other parts of Pennsylvania and the country. Next, we need to focus our efforts on remediating those skills so that our achievement levels continue to rise back to pre-pandemic levels. Last, we continue to look into innovative strategies to excel beyond where our students have previously achieved.

Do you have any new plans on that front?

Not necessarily new plans, but a re-emphasis on using data to inform instruction. Focusing on diagnostic data to identify weaknesses so that we can proactively address them instead of waiting for end of the year summative assessments that tell us where we were weak.

Given widespread mental health issues among students, particularly anxiety and depression, amid a sparsity of mental health professionals, what plans do you have to address that?

Similar to any academic deficiencies, we have to identify what specific needs our students are experiencing. Once we can better hone in on those areas, we can begin to use research-based approaches to helping out students with any issues they may be experiencing.