Gloria Towle-Hilt

GUILDERLAND — , a middle-school social-studies teacher at Guilderland since 1971, said, "I want to use that experience to solve problems...This is not about me saying I have the answers. I want to work with other people who are passionate about education to solve some of the problems we are faced with these days."
She went on, "I believe we have a wonderful district and I want to contribute in a new way."

Towle-Hilt, who has two grown children, both Guilderland graduates, will be retiring in June.
Asked who she would serve as a school-board member, Towle-Hilt replied, "For me, all of us serve the students."

She described training she recently took in curriculum mapping during which the instructor placed an empty chair in front of the room as a reminder of the student everyone should keep in mind.
"Our children need to be the center of attention," Towle-Hilt said. "From that, we all benefit."
Being a social-studies teacher herself, Towle-Hilt said she was disappointed the supervisors’ posts were being combined at the high school. She said she understood the value of a supervisor for each subject and stated, "If you serve the teachers, you serve the students."

But Towle-Hilt didn’t want to comment on specific changes she would have liked to see in the budget.
"I support the budget," she said. "We’ve developed a process that speaks highly of the district and the community." She praised the process that allows citizens to review, question, and criticize the budget.
"You get a sense of where people are coming from...People come out of it with an I-can-live-with-this attitude." In the end, she said, "It’s something we can all get behind."
On choosing a new superintendent, Towle-Hilt said, "The number-one quality is communication. The superintendent needs to be able to listen and encourage people to come forward and talk and know they’ll be heard."
And, Towle-Hilt went on, the superintendent has to have "an ability to lead the staff and be a curriculum leader....The experience is going to be critical. We have high standards in this district."
Asked about the superintendent’s role, Towle Hilt said, "In my mind, the school board sets the direction. The superintendent and staff, their job is to put that vision into practice and make it real."
She went on, "The board uses all the resources around them, but they’re in charge of setting the course, of visioning."
On the teachers’ contract, Towle-Hilt said, similar to budgeting in a household, "You have so much money and you have to spend to get the best kind of benefit."
She also said, "We go in with good faith with the bargaining units. We can’t put constraints on from outside."
She went on, "We have a collective bargaining process. I remember it was very confrontational in the ’70s. We’ve come so far. We’ve developed a positive relationship. Both side have been working to bring costs down, looking at health care."
Towle-Hilt concluded, "I don’t see it as us against them...I’m part of the community, too. We want to provide fair and equitable salaries; everyone wants that."
On the reading-curriculum discussion, Towle-Hilt said, "First of all, there’s a real failure of communication on both sides."
She went on, "I understand and accept the fact members of the public, when dissatisfied, have the right to come forward. People were sharing their own personal stories," she said, and the board couldn’t respond because it had to respect student confidentiality.
She also said that parents may not have gone through all the appropriate avenues. "It kind of jumped right to the board," said Towle-Hilt. "My own experience has been, when a parent comes and says something isn’t working, people bend over to solve it."
She stressed that children learn differently. "Are we going to succeed all the time" No. I spend hours trying to find ways to reach children," said Towle-Hilt. "We’ll keep trying."
About the reading curriculum, she said, "I don’t see it as a program. There are a lot of pieces, a lot of ways reading is taught. The program has to be varied. What works for some kids may not work for others. I don’t think we can have a [single] method or program for all students."

On the length of the school day, Towle-Hilt said that, because Farnsworth Middle School lets out later than many other area middle schools, Farnsworth students involved in sports often have to leave early, missing class.
"Trying to alleviate that might entail switching other school schedules," she said.

She noted, though, that the committee that studied the length of the school day found no simple solutions.
Towle-Hilt said that, since she arrived at Guilderland in 1971, school schedules had been the same. "Maybe there is something to change that would be more fiscally responsible," she said. "We have to look at the possibilities."
On kindergarten, Towle-Hilt said, "My own personal feeling is we need to look at moving to full-day kindergarten. The community needs are there. We need to look at what changing it would entail."

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