The ‘super’ behind ‘Super Sessions’


Photo Credit: Caitlin Rundle

Dr. Paula Valenti discusses the role of Super Sessions with The Glen Echo.

by Caitlin Rundle, Contributing Member

When Dr. Paula Valenti began working for the Glen Rock School District four years ago she wanted to address parents’ concerns about the lack of communication between schools and the community. 

Valenti, the current superintendent of schools, and Andrea Tahinos, the Director of Communications, coined the idea of a Glen Rock “Super Session.”

“The Super Sessions are an opportunity for Glen Rock parents and other community members to come engage with me about topics that concern them about the school,” Valenti said. “I don’t set an agenda. It’s an opportunity outside of the formal Board of Education meeting where people can come and discuss topics with myself and a few other board members.”

The Super Sessions are usually held three times a year with two more sessions being held this year. The next two sessions will be held on Jan. 25. and April 26, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m both days.

The meetings are both in the afternoon and the evening. The idea of two sessions was created in hopes that parents, whatever their schedule,  would be able to attend one of the two times.

Valenti also hopes that the informal setting will “attract people who would not normally go to the Board of Education meetings.”

These sessions, although informal, have led to major changes in the district such as the stadium field lights. Dr. Valenti said that the Super Sessions have also influenced the school’s food service program, field trips and full-day kindergarten, which is now in effect.

The topics discussed at these sessions vary according to what townspeople are concerned about. Valenti does look for specific input regarding the five-year strategic plan, air conditioning at the elementary schools, and the addition of a field house on top of the snack stand for storage.

However, Valenti said she was even more interested to have new topics brought up to her and to talk about things she hadn’t considered of before.

At the Super Session on the evening of Oct. 13, the conversations flowed as naturally as two friends talking to each other.

One focal point was a complete renovation of the high school media center.

“The current Media Center is a very 1970’s-like design that needs to be updated desperately,” said Sheldon Hirschberg, the President of the Board of Education. “We would obviously want to make it as up to date technology-wise as we can, but we need to make sure that the current technology we choose when we start building will be roughly the same when we finish building. It is a large investment and we need to make sure we get everything right.”

Valenti said that they discussed “new floors, new paint, new furniture, and new tables.” Additionally, the group hopes to create space for a broadcast media studio and the tech department.

Other ideas mentioned were “places where students can be loud during lunch, so kids who want to study can study in peace.” They also weighed adding a new entryway.

“Something that I know gets me excited, and I think the students would too, is setting up a coffee bar that could be student run in the media center, as well,” Hirschberg said.

The Super Session also broached the one-to-one laptop initiative, which would provide high school students with personal school laptops. However, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out.

“We have to take security into account and ask ourselves how we can block certain things that are considered harmful or inappropriate, but we also have to make sure that we are still letting kids have some freedoms with the laptops,” Valenti said. “I do see it happening at some point in the future. At this point, it just depends how far down the road that future is.”

Valenti stressed that the Super Session meetings are not just for parents but for students, too.

“The only way we are going to get a true idea of the problems is if we get a first-hand account of it and not something through a parent,” she said.