Dr. Kusum Sinha kicks off new school year
When the bell rings throughout the Garden City public schools on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the district will be under the leadership of Dr. Kusum Sinha, who assumed her duties as new superintendent on July 1. Coming from serving as the assistant superintendent for human resources and leadership development for the upstate Chappaqua Central School District, Sinha was found following an extensive search to replace her predecessor, Dr. Robert Feirsen. For the newly minted administrator, the past two months have been a whirlwind of getting to know the district’s needs and meeting a seemingly endless line of people. It’s a process she’s eagerly embraced.
“It’s actually been fantastic. This is a wonderful community. Transitions are hard for a school community, especially in our district. Dr. Feirsen was here for a long time, so it brings about a certain level of stability. Then you have interim and then, now, me. That’s getting adjusted to two different people. To me, it’s extremely important to ensure that there is a smooth transition,” Sinha said. “I also wrote a very comprehensive entry plan that is really a structured way for me to learn about the district through meetings with key people and understanding their view of the district through their lenses. I focus on teaching and learning. Our main mission in the school district is educating children. For me, I’ve learned a lot and it’s been wonderful because I’ve learned so much from folks out here. The transition has been really good. It’s only been two months, but I feel like I’ve been here a long time trying to hit the ground running.”
Having earned a masters in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University and a bachelor of science in Social Work from Dominican College of Blauvelt, Sinha fell into an educational track driven by a need to help and serve people. Subsequently, she earned a doctorate in instructional leadership from St. John’s University. Prior to coming to Garden City, the former New Jersey native worked in upper level positions in a number of other school districts, including Croton-Harmon UFSD, Ramapo Central School District and Briarcliff Manor UFSD before winding up in Chappaqua. She’s become quickly impressed by her new surroundings and all it has to offer.
“Getting to know people here has been fantastic, from our faculty and staff to parents and the community. It has been fantastic because there is such a strong investment in our schools and I think that’s such a hallmark of a community,” she shared. “I’ve been on two big tours here through the village, led by Linda Norton, one of our principals. I learned that Garden City is only 5.3 square miles, which is pretty small. But within this place, there are so many wonderful things for families and communities that are packed in here. So I can see why it’s so community-oriented. I think people have a vested interest in making sure that everything in this community is doing well and the school is the central hub of this community.”
With this new challenge before her, Sinha has rolled up her sleeves and sent out a letter to parents and students highlighting a number of new initiatives being launched in the 2018-19 school year. Among them are the introduction of Foundations, a program designed to strenghthen young learners’ phonemic awareness, phonics and word study; the introduction of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) Club at the middle school level and a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) sequence that will include civil engineering and architecture for fourth-year engineering students at the high school level. Sinha expects to make a deep dive into getting a handle on all things that continue to make Garden City a destination for families seeking out a top-flight public education for their children.
“The focus of my first year is to really gain a solid understanding of our school district and community. Within that, there will be four areas—continuing to build a real collaborative team here. It will come through working with my entry plan and by understanding and getting to know people. The other goals focus on teaching and learning—being in classrooms and really understanding what our best practices are in the classroom. From there, assessments can be made on what we do next,” she explained. “There’s nothing broken here, so it’s about enhancing and making things even better. Teaching and learning, technology—all of those are areas that I need to get a deeper understanding of once school opens. Finance, that’s always an area that you want to focus in on and really looking at our resources and seeing that we’re best utilizing them. The other thing is security, which is the fourth of four things that I’ll be focusing in on. There are more things that you continually work on, but those four areas are the most important.”