Our district is excited to welcome our new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Laurie Bandlow. To get to know her better and see what she’s all about, our reporter Kate Vaughan sat down with her.
KV: You began as a teacher. What subject and level did you teach? What was the aspect of teaching that you loved most? What was challenging?
LB: I taught sixth grade, every subject, which was challenging as a kid just out of college. I taught with teachers whose classes I had been in, so I found it kind of challenging when they wanted me to call them by their first names! What I loved was when we were able to departmentalize; we gave the kids a much deeper, enriching program. My forte was science. I LOVED doing the labs. I was a lead science teacher in West Windsor-Plainsboro where we were able to bring in a grant from the National Science Foundation for hands-on inquiry-based science. We also took our kids on an outdoor-ed trip, where we taught different courses with microscopic-limnology and macroscopic-limnology. It was so great.
KV: Being a superintendent must be a demanding job. What opportunity does being a superintendent provide you with?
LB: The thing I love about being a superintendent – and I waited a while before I did this because it had to be right in my life – is being able to work with incredible administrators, incredible teachers, incredible staff, parents, the BOE, to be able to create a vision of where the district needs to go. I have the opportunity to work with all these individuals to come up with this wonderful vision and witness others getting excited about where we want to take the district.
KV: Would you please describe something that you hope to accomplish sooner rather than later for the Brewster School District? How about specifically for BHS?
LB: Okay, so one of the things that I’ve started with the school community and the community at large, is trying to make sure we keep the lines of communication open; that we share the positive things that are happening in and around the school community. I started the “Key Communicator Community,” with leaders from all of the different organizations throughout the town. We’re going to be meeting three times a year with my executive team, who will be highlighting some of the great things we’re doing in the district. And one of the most important things this year, Kate, is to really get to know the district. I have to do a lot of listening, a lot of learning. I would also like to start a Superintendent’s Round Table, and I just finished talking to your principal who is excited about this. Starting in December, I want to meet with leadership from each grade level, just to talk about some of the ideas that they have to move the district forward. I want to do that at the high school and the middle school.
KV: We’d like to know where you went to high school and what you remember really liking about your four years there. What did you not like about high school?
LB: I went to Warwick Valley Central High School in Warwick, New York. I loved it. I had a great coach for basketball, soccer, and softball. She really taught me a lot about life – about being resilient and strong. It was a great school – strong in spirit, a great feeling. The thing I didn’t like about school? It was so clique-y. There were a lot of cliques, but I tried to be friendly with everybody. I think that kids your age are so much more open to ALL students. I think cliques still exist, but there is so much more awareness among high school students today and that’s due, in part, to social media. Your eyes see more of a global perspective, where ours didn’t back then.
KV: We’d like to know a little bit more about the woman behind the administrator. Do you have any pets?
LB: I have two toy poodles. Perry, is apricot and nine-years-old, and Dexter, is a chocolate poodle who is five. Perry is very bossy and has to know where everyone is all the time: he is the big brother. Dexter is living large and is happy all the time. When we first brought Dexter home, Perry did not want him there. But they became brothers very quickly. This is the story I love most about them: when we were at the ocean last summer, Dexter, who we keep on a leash or he’d run away, wanted to go right into the waves. We were holding him back, and Perry was talking, because he talks, Perry was like, “Get out those waves, Dexter! Get outta there, you’re gonna get hurt!” He just barked and barked until Dexter looked, ran back, and listened to him.
KV: What are some of your hobbies and passions in life? What do you like to do on the weekends?
LB: I like to travel, I like to run, I love to go to the gym, I like to scuba dive, I love to cook, I love to ski, and I’ve surfed and paddle boarded. I’m a very active person.
KV: So many of us wish that we had more time and the means to travel. Would you describe your favorite vacation or tell us about a place you think everyone should visit?
LB: I’ve gone to some pretty interesting countries, but I’d have to say the best family vacation we’ve had – because it was so relaxing and absolutely beautiful – was at Turks and Caicos, on Grace Bay, which is one of the top ten beaches in the world. The water was crystal clear! I have never seen water like that. You can snorkel, scuba dive, and see so much there. I had to pinch myself because I kept thinking, “Is this real?” It’s the one place that my family wants to go back to again and again.
KV: What is your favorite song, old or new?
LB: I like a lot of songs. I love Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love Of All.” It inspired me as a little girl to become a teacher. And I love “The Eye Of The Tiger”; it pumps me up for my runs.
KV: What is the most interesting thing about you, that most people in the district don’t know?
LB: When I was in college, I was a white water rafting guide on the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, PA. I’m a little more conservative now, but I was pretty adventurous back then. And I participated in mini-triathlons.
KV: Scenario time! You have the opportunity to plan the perfect day. What does it include?
LB: I would get up early, have a nice long, beautiful run along the beach. I would spend time with my family, which is so important to me because of my busy job. I would cook a great meal for my family, something that comes out really good. And I would read an awesome book or watch a movie with my family. That’s my perfect day.
KV: Why did you choose the Brewster District and not any other one?
LB: I chose Brewster because, first and foremost, it is in the Hudson Valley where my roots are. After being in so many districts and observing the strong roots that people had, I had this yearning to go back to where I started, and where my great grandmother started. She was a beloved kindergarten and first grade teacher; she was my inspiration. I’ve got her pictures in my office. And Brewster’s academic program was very, very appealing to me. I admired the wonderful community; the top-notch facilities in the school district. I love the proximity to New York; I can’t lie, I love Manhattan. I grew up a Mets and Giants fan. (KV: YES!!) It’s where my family is from, my sister is close and my son is in Albany. I asked a lot of my friends in the industry about Brewster and they told me that Brewster is a great place to be.
KV: Finally, what do you hope to establish as your reputation in the Brewster School District?
LB: I would like to have the reputation as a very approachable superintendent, someone who listens and makes decisions based on what is best for the district as a whole to all stakeholders. I hope to create a shared vision for the district and, hopefully, build on the work that’s been done here, Kate, by helping to create a roadmap for the future, with something that can be meaningful and built on; something that the district can continue to grow into the twenty-first century.