May 30—Mathis Calvin III took over as superintendent of Lockport City School District in March.
Calvin was hired away from his post as superintendent of Oswego City School District. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of the Wayne and Stockbridge Valley school districts.
Calvin has a master's degree from St. John Fisher University and a doctorate from the University of Rochester. He started out as a special education teacher before landing the superintendent's post at the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia.
The new superintendent recently answered several questions about his himself and the school district. Some of the responses have been edited for brevity.
QUESTION: Where did you grow up?
CALVIN: I am from the Rochester area. I grew up in Rochester and I grew up in a family of five children. We lived in the inner city portion of Rochester and my mom really raised all five of us and I think she did a fantastic job and made sure we were grounded with strong values and really made sure she focused on learning whenever possible.
Q: When did you know you wanted a career in education and why?
C: When I was in grade 10 I started to work for a summer camp. It was a camp for kids with disabilities for the county. ... I just realized I really liked working with kids and young adults and I felt I wanted to become a special education teacher. Then when I was in high school, I was volunteering in special education classrooms and I was also teaching a program called Business Basics, a junior achievement program, and we would go out to the elementary schools and teach this program. It was very interesting. We were teaching how to get into business. I just loved it. I loved being in the classroom. Working with all kinds of kids. So I knew right there that I was going to be a teacher and by senior year it was clear to me that I was going to be a special education teacher. I graduated from East High School in the City of Rochester and went on to Keuka College and got my degree in three and a half years and became a special education teacher.
Q: How many years of experience do you have as a superintendent and what did you learn in that time?
C: I have over 12 and a half years as a superintendent and I have had some remarkable experiences. I worked in New York State College for the Blind. I worked for Central New York school districts and now here in Western New York. ... What I've learned is that the work we are doing is very serious important work. We work to shape the lives of students and we have the ability to really make sure that the educational needs of kids are met. It's really important serious work. I also learned as superintendent you can really make a difference in the lives of kids and adults. You have the ability to make sure kids have the resources not just in school but in the world as a whole. You can also have and impact on the staff, too. You have the ability to make a work experience a great experience with the attention and effort you put into folks' work.
Q: What do you have planned for our students, teachers, parents and community?
C: As a district we need a strategic road map that will guide the work in the future for the entire district. ... Whatever plan we put together, the goal is to address a few areas. One of them is the academic performance of students. We want to raise our outcomes for our students who are graduating ... The second piece is to do the work with and for our staff around diversity, equity and access for our students. DEI. We want to make sure our students and staff are being supported in diversity, equity and inclusivity and access. ... I think that other piece is the culture of the district. We want to make sure as a district we are transparent, open, welcoming to our community and when people come out our doors and leave our schools, that they feel they've received a high quality educational experience that will help them for a lifetime.
Q: What can the community and parents do to help?
C: We're open to partnering with our parents. We have some great PTA opportunities and we'd welcome parents supporting in those areas. And just day-to-day. Help with homework assignments. Read to kids at night. And there are activities, events we'd love for them to volunteer in and also just participating in steering committees, work groups, special committees that are designed to enrich our offerings and better ourselves as an entire district. We are open to collaborating with our parents and community.