Retiring Lew-Port superintendent reflects on his service to the district
By Janet Schultz
Seven years ago, Christopher Roser joined the Lewiston-Porter School District as superintendent. He came at a time when the Board of Education was in turmoil, and trust between the constituencies was low.
"I had no illusions when I was hired," Roser said. "I would say I was the right fit for Lewiston-Porter at that time and even for myself."
With over 30 years in education, he came in with the attitude, "Here's what I can do for you."
And he has done it.
First and foremost in his accomplishments are seeing the district calmer and focused on education.
"It's what's best for the kids at all ages, best for education," Roser said. "We talk the talk and now we walk the walk.
"The board and the district are focused on education and, as a result, we've achieved better."
The second thing Roser is very proud of is the embracing of technology within the district. When Roser arrived, it was minimal and now Lewiston-Porter has technology in the hands of teachers, in every classroom and to the point where teachers and students can bring their personal devices and link into the system.
"We've also brought in a lot of programs to facilitate instruction and learning for students, as well as established a replacement plan to continue with it," he explained. "We've put a lot of money into it, but the board really wanted to focus on that. We did it. We've been very successful."
Roser also provided better access to instruction by putting the right staff into the right positions to meet the needs of all students, from those who struggle to the students who are gifted and talented.
"Even though we went through a number of cuts (89 teaching and other staff positions over the years), we've maintained good access for everyone," he continued.
The New York State Elimination Gap Adjustment taking away so much money has been the hardest thing he has had to contend with in order to maintain academic programming.
"We did it collaboratively when we could have had a lot of discourse throughout the district," Roser explained. "I won't say we did it painlessly, but we worked together to get what we have. With some of my counterparts, that wasn't the case."
He went on to explain Lewiston-Porter is digging itself out and has replaced several positions, all very purposefully and selectively based on meeting the needs of the students.
"We eliminated a social worker and brought that position back because of the need. This year we are bringing back two special education positions to meet another need," Roser said. "We very carefully brought some positions back, but it has been hard."
The New York state budget has been the hardest thing to deal with, but Roser maintains you have to take the good with the bad and find a path.
"I've been very blessed, not just here, to have had good people around me," he said. "Whether you look at the district clerk to the business managers and staff, I've had the best people, and having that makes it easier.
"These people gave over 100 percent and are dedicated to the school, the community and young people, and they are doing it right.
"People in education are extremely dedicated. It's not like a business; it's the last thing like a business.
"Education is very personal and very much like a family. In education, everyone is so dedicated and at every level."
"In education, the personal part is the bottom line," Roser said.
"I think Lew-Port went through a bad time and the sacred trust was diminished and at risk. I think that is restored and I'm proud of that," he said.
When you leave a position, there is always something more you think you should have accomplished. With Roser, it's with the curriculum.
"As good as we are academically, we are as far as I can take them with my skill set," he explained.
What he sees is a need for a curriculum person who can make sure there is a kindergarten through 12th grade continuum. There need to be no gaps in learning so that every student is assured of having a high quality education. That is the basis of the Common Core throughout the U.S.
"Common Core is more rigorous, it is more difficult, and it is a challenge," Roser said. "I'm not against it.
"I think the next person needs to help the community, parents and everyone know that it is doable and that we are on the right course. I may not have done the best job in communicating that.
"The age of accountability, which is the testing, is a different issue. If you hold the 11th-grade English teacher accountable for that Regents, why isn't the second-grade teacher accountable? Every parent should be asking for that."
"One of the easiest ways to measure accountability is testing, it can be done efficiently where other ways to measure are not as effective and will always be subject to a little bit of a person's individual way of assessment," Roser explained. "We should demand accountability from everyone, not just a high school teacher that reaches Regents level.
"Parents need to feel comfortable with that accountability and that it is being done appropriately and that teachers are highly qualified, highly successful and meeting all the goals that we have for education in New York and beyond.
"We haven't hit it right, but we will.
Moving on, Roser plans to spend more time with his family.