Joseph Kraemer is in the middle of his first week as superintendent of , and he has hit the ground running.
Kraemer has already to replace the position he vacated upon his promotion. Thornton’s old position of director of curriculum and instruction—as well as the assistant to that position—will not be replaced, saving the about $300,000 per year in salaries and benefit costs.
Kraemer, who has been with the district for six years as the assistant superintendent, said that his main goal as he takes over the school district is to repair what he termed an “unhealthy climate” in the district.
“In the beginning it will be about the process of correcting things that need repair,” he said.
To that end, Kraemer said he wants to start at the ground and work up.
“Everyone is always trying to fix the roof,” he said. “I want to start by fixing the foundation. It may take a little longer to see results that way, but it takes patience. Nothing that’s worth it ever happens quickly.”
Part of what that means for Kraemer is being visible in the schools and being approachable.
“I don’t want the staff or the students to be intimidated by me,” he said. “I want to be able to say to them, ‘help me help you. What do you need? Is there something standing in the way?’ Then I can help fix it.”
For example, he said that if a teacher is having a bad year, before instituting an action plan, he’d start by sitting down and talking to the teacher to find out what is going on, and what can be done to help.
“What the teachers do for the students, I want to do for the teachers,” he said. “This is a human business. We make citizens, not widgets, and we can’t lose site of that.”
Kraemer addressed several issues that are current hot-button topics with parents.
At a recent school board meeting, a parent noted that she had recently moved from one section of town to the other, thereby transferring her child’s schools. She noted that the pacing of material presentation seemed to be different and asked for clarification.
Kraemer noted that the district does have pacing guides in place, and it will be his job to be sure they are upheld, so that teachers from both sections of town are basically on the same page at the same time with material.
He also discussed what many see as the ongoing drug problem among the township’s youth.
“We’ve started an ad hoc committee on the board of education to discuss the drug problem in our schools and ways to combat it,” he said. “We have to look at ways to dissuade kids, and educate both parents and kids as to the signs and behavioral changes.
“We can’t be everywhere in the schools all the time,” Kraemer continued. “We can’t put cameras in bathrooms, and we can’t be in the parking lots all the time. We can help to educate the parents and listen to the kids.”
Education will be the district’s main weapon in the problems of fighting and bullying as well.
“At least a part of the problem with bullying and fighting comes with technology,” Kraemer said. “We’re contending with kids saying things about other kids online. We have to work on getting the kids to understand how negative that behavior is.”
What with all the work that comes with running a school district, there is life beyond the office for Kraemer. The ex-music teacher and band director plays the drums for enjoyment. He also counts boating and fishing among his passions.