One Last Year, One Last Vote
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
With only 10 months until retirement, superintendent Michael Ginalski knows that his work isn’t finished. In a September 24th vote, Corning-Painted Post Area School District residents authorized a third and final phase of school renovations that will complete more than a decade of facility improvements across the district. A day before the vote, he sat down with Tesserae reporters to discuss the facilities plan, the district’s growth and the legacy he’ll leave behind next June.
Reporting by Lani Probst and Liz Hogrefe; interview transcript edited for clarity and brevity.
Can you tell us a little bit about what is being voted on?
It’s a $89.1 million plan. Basically, it’s designed to kind of finish the job associated with the previous two votes. You guys live it everyday; it’s kind of a tale of two buildings. There’s a new space and the old ones. This is an opportunity to take care of the old spaces and do the work that really is desperately needed, particularly in the elementary schools.
Severn though is probably the greatest example of being a tale of two buildings where you’ve got this addition that’s bright and airy and air conditioned, big classrooms, natural light. Then you walk out into the hallways on the second and third floor and it’s that nasty brown carpet that's got the duct tape.
So really the key thing in the plan, it’s largely an infrastructure-based vote. It’s asbestos abatement, replacing windows, some roof works and basically updating every space in the district, along with major renovations to the pool and tennis courts.
Can you tell us a bit more about what the pool renovation will entail?
It’s a roughly $4.1 million project; we wouldn’t be expanding the footprint. It would be new locker rooms, new bleachers, new floor finishes, wall finishes, ceiling finishes; we’re talking about a speaker system, too.
How would that affect the swim unit at the school?
We wouldn’t have a swim unit. The pool would be down for a full year.
Would that affect the swim team?
Yeah, they’ll have to move to the middle school pool.
What kind of impact have our new and renovated facilities had on our students already?
We have school programs that are second to none. If you want to take an elective, there’s no better high school to be in; there’s everything you could ask for in terms of an elective class.
How different are the schools overall now compared to when you first started?
Well, I think one thing this district has always done is tried to stay on a cutting edge of being ahead of other districts in terms of offering program for kids. So I would say in this era, we're far more aggressive in doing that than we were in previous eras — more willing to make changes and do things out of the box.
I think the demands of today are helping drive the program. And that’s probably the greatest change.
With the growth of facilities and programs that you’re talking about, how much of that do you think is your direct impact?
I think that my contribution is that I've created a very collaborative environment in the district, where people have different job titles but can interact together to help create the best possible school for kids. I would say if I’ve helped with anything, it’s creating that collaborative culture. No one person does anything.
How would you say that the climate of transparency at C-PP was different before, as opposed to now?
I think the big thing is that we admit when things don’t work and when we make mistakes.
What do you think is your greatest accomplishment as superintendent?
I’m really proud of the schools we’ve created for students. I think there’s a warmth that’s prevalent in every single school that maybe wasn’t there prior.
So it’s, you know, making sure that school is that safe spot for kids. You know, I feel good about that.
What is your favorite part of being superintendent?
Interacting with the students. I wish I could do more of that. As a principal I was very, very student-centered and was one of these administrators that was really wasn't in my office. And when I was in my office, there were usually five or six students in there with me. Some doing homework, some listening to music, some talking to me.
What has serving as superintendent taught you about life?
I think that everyone has something to contribute, and that no one should be discounted, regardless of who they are, or where they come from.
I have also learned that this community is very smart. It’s a community filled with smart people. You have to explain why — the purpose of everything that you do. That was something going in I maybe underestimated a little bit. It can be overwhelming at times how bright people are; they know what questions to ask.
What are you planning to do now that you’re retiring?
I just want to take a little break, kind of live everyday as Saturday, and try to get bored. We’ll see what the next chapter is — probably consulting in school facilities. There are lots of opportunities out there for me.
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Michelle Caulfield is taking over for you on July 1, 2020 — what advice would you give her?
To listen, always listen. Doesn’t matter who it is — listen to them.
Listening is a very important part of being successful here. At Corning-Painted Post in any administrative position from assistant principal to superintendent. People want to be heard.
What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as somebody who was approachable and cared. It’s as simple as that.
The 2019-2020 Capital Improvement Project, the third and final facilities plan in the past decade, was approved by 83% of voters on Sept. 24, by a final tally of 1112-218. Work is expected to begin in November. This article was updated to reflect the date of the vote as Sept. 24, not 25.