Raymond Gonzalez is here to stay.
Gonzalez is the district’s first permanent superintendent in three years.
“I’m looking forward to keeping the district focused in a particular direction and keeping the district moving in that direction for as long as possible,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez attended his first board of education meeting Thursday in his new position.
John Sico Jr. was the district’s last permanent superintendent. He retired in 2009 after serving just nine months of his 3 1/2-year contract. The district paid West Hudson Associates $12,000 to recruit and refer candidates to the Board of Education.
Critical thinking, giving teachers the freedom for creativity in their lesson plans, and instructing students on how to correctly use technology in the learning process. These are just some of the tenants Gonzalez believes should be a part of Wayne’s educational system.
“Whether I’m teaching one child or administering a district of this size or larger, the educational focus is really the same, I need to ask: What are we doing, in all aspects of our operations, to ensure that our students are learning,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, a 37-year-old father of three young children, began his educational career in Paterson in 1998. He first taught English as a Second Language.
“That experience really set the foundation of where I see myself today. I learned, under challenging circumstances, how to focus on students’ needs and their backgrounds to touch in a way so they learned to their greatest potential,” Gonzalez said.
He then moved to the Paterson School District’s central office and became responsible for distributing and examining the results of state-issued standardized tests.
“It’s where I started to really make the connection between technology, not just as an administrative tool, but coordinating with teachers on how to best use it in the classroom,” Gonzalez said.
He became a principal of an elementary school in Westwood in 2006 and the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Paterson School District in 2009. He became the assistant superintendent in Hackensack in 2010 and was named interim superintendent in June of that year before starting in Wayne earlier this week.
Facilitating learning moments in the classroom is an important part of the learning process.
“I think the onus of responsibility comes upon our teachers, which is why they are so important. They need to feel that their hands aren’t tied,” Gonzalez said. “Giving our teachers the freedom and support and structure to make things happen for students in the classroom is also important. Teachers need to know that they have the ability to be creative with their lessons in order to give students opportunities where they can create inspiration for a student.”
A challenging subject for educators is answering the question: What does a classroom in the 21st century look like and how much of a role will technology play in creating it?
“Technology may replace some of the furniture, the tools, but at the heart of a classroom in the 21st century needs to be focused on problem solving,” Gonzalez said. “We are slowing moving away from trying to keep technology out of the classroom. We have to acknowledge that for students of today, technology is how they gather their information so we need to know how to channel that in the right direction and get students to be critical thinkers of the knowledge their receiving from technology. They need to think critically about what they’re reading and how they accessed it.”