With the 2010-2011 school year in session just two days, the new superintendent of Belgrade Schools said Friday she is impressed with the quality of the district’s students and staff and “very optimistic” about its future.
And, as a bonus, Candy Lubansky loves Belgrade.
“The people are so welcoming. It feels alive, and people are really engaging,” she said.
The new super sported a polo shirt embroidered with her name, a gift from the janitorial staff, to an interview at the Belgrade News. She has hit the ground running in her first month on the job, addressing a number of challenges facing the district.
“We have work to do, but it’s good work to do,” she said. “We have good education to offer and I really feel like people are looking to the future in this district.”
Lubansky, 58, was hired in March to take over for the retiring Herb Benz. The School Board chose her over three other finalists in a split decision that created some controversy among trustees because she didn’t have her superintendent’s credentials at the time. Lubansky spent the summer earning the required certificate and started work Aug. 1.
She assumed the reins of a district that has been fighting budgetary battles for the past three years and one in which teachers have been working without a contract for more than a year.
But she said Friday the challenges facing the district are problems she looks forward to solving. Besides, she added, “there is so much to be optimistic about.”
She said the district’s budget problems — voters have refused to pass a requested operating mill levy two years running and trustees have cut hundreds of thousands from budgets in the past two years — can be solved. But doing so will require everyone’s participation and commitment.
“We need to be talking to legislators — all of us, educators, students community members,” she said. “I will work closely with the community to help them understand school funding. We need to be really direct and open in sharing what our priorities and resources are.
The district is in the beginning stages of doing some strategic planning, she said, and the community will be invited to participate in that process.
“We need to identify our goals, priorities and vision,” she said. “We need to identify what resources we have and focus them” on those goals, priorities and vision. “We need to be clear with the community about what we can and cannot do given our funding.”
Lubansky praised the district’s teachers and staff as “wonderful professionals,” and said she is “very optimistic” the impasse over teacher salaries and benefits will be resolved.
She also praised the students she has met as “engaged” and “present for their lives.”
“I’m loving my job,” she said. “The variety is so fun, so interesting.”