Dr. Walter S. Polka, former Lewiston-Porter superintendent of schools, was recently granted promotion to full professor with tenure at Niagara University.
A native of Niagara Falls, Polka attended local public schools including Cayuga Drive Elementary School, LaSalle Junior High School and LaSalle High School. He graduated from LaSalle High School in 1963.
Polka received most of his formal higher education in the Western New York area, including: a B.A. in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1968; a M.A. in history from Niagara University in 1970; a M.S. in education from Niagara University in 1971; and an Ed.D. in curriculum planning from SUNY at Buffalo in 1977. His doctoral dissertation was a nationwide quantitative study titled: "Curriculum Planning for the Individualization of Instruction" and focused on the planning needs of teachers individualizing instruction for their students. He has continued to employ the key findings of that research in his several publications. In addition, Polka has completed post-doctoral studies at Florida State University and Harvard University.
Polka began his public school education career as a social studies teacher at Lewiston-Porter High School in 1968. In 1973 he began his administrative career, serving as a district-wide curriculum coordinator for social studies and science in the Williamsville Central Schools. In 1986, he returned to Lewiston-Porter as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, a position he held until he was appointed superintendent at Lewiston-Porter in 1990. He remained as superintendent at Lew-Port until his retirement from public education in 2003.
In addition to his public school experiences, Polka has taught as an adjunct professor at several Western New York colleges and universities since 1970 including: Brockport State College, Buffalo State College, Medaille College, Niagara County Community College, and SUNY at Buffalo. He is now teaching educational leadership courses during the summers at Loyola University in Maryland.
Following his retirement from Lewiston-Porter in 2003, Polka began his full-time higher education career. He was appointed associate professor of educational administration and coordinator of the educational leadership program and doctoral program coordinator at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga. In 2008, he returned to Niagara University as associate professor of educational administration and coordinated the implementation of a new Ph.D. program in leadership and policy.
Polka is a frequent presenter at various international, national, and regional conferences. He has presented his research on such topics as: management, school leadership, diversity, curriculum development, instructional improvement, technology, and school law, in 38 U.S. states and 24 different countries around the world. He has authored or co-authored 20 peer-reviewed research articles that have been published in professional journals, eight book chapters, and one book: "The Dark Side of Educational Leadership: Superintendents and the Professional Victim Syndrome."
He is currently working on a new book about school law in the U.S. titled, "School Law for American Educational Leaders: A Pragmatic Approach to Applying Legal Principles, Concepts, and Practices in Twenty-first Century Schools." The book is based on his experiences as a school administrator and his years of teaching school law courses in Georgia, Maryland and New York. In addition, he is collaborating with two other superintendents on a book titled, "Living on the Horns of Dilemmas: Superintendent Decision-making and Problem-solving." The book is based on their research about superintendents in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Polka has also contributed his leadership knowledge and skills to a number of international, national, and regional professional and community organizations, including serving in various positions with the International Society of Educational Planners.
Polka contends that, "Leadership is all about establishing and maintaining good relationships with others. ... And the relationships I have with international, national, and regional leaders in education have truly enriched my life and contributed to my personal and professional successes ... . I truly believe that there are 'no perfect strangers in this world ... only dear friends who have yet to meet.' I am glad I have met so many dear friends during my career and I look forward to meeting so many more in the future!"
During his 13 years as Lew-Port superintendent Polka wrote a column titled, "The Superintendent's Perspective" that was published weekly in the Sentinel.
Today, Polka lives in Lewiston with his wife, Vicky, a retired teacher and principal from the Niagara Falls School system. They have two grown daughters and one grandchild.