New Jersey educator second finalist for Staples principal's job
Updated 1:41 pm, Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Lou Moore comes from a family of educators -- his father was his middle school principal and his mother was a veteran English teacher.
He said it was his high school American history teacher who taught him that "study can lead to life-long commitments," adding he majored in history in college and has a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University.
Moore, principal at Ramapo High School in the affluent community of Franklin Lakes, N.J., is one of two finalists for the position of Staples High School principal. He fielded questions from several dozen parents during a forum in the high school cafeteria Wednesday morning.
Frank Costanzo, principal of the Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School in New Haven, is the other finalist for the job. He appeared at a forum with parents Monday.
The successful candidate will replace John Dodig, who served as the Staples principal for 11 years. Dodig, who was paid $183,394 last year, announced last December that he would step down at the end of this school year.
Moore said when he took over as principal at Ramapo, "We weren't doing enough to support the kids on an emotional and social level."
He said "one thing I insisted on was to shift the responsibility to the kids" and started a peer-to-peer program where "one-third of the seniors serve as peers to freshmen." The program, he noted, has become nationally recognized.
He said when the program was first put in place, some felt "you can't put kids together in rooms without supervision."
But, after eight years, there have been no problems, he added. "I think that proves that if you trust kids they will rise to the occasion," he added.
Peer groups are important, he said, adding if there's no positive options for kids, they will get involved in negative things and "others will get pulled in."
This year, Moore said, his school has worked on a partnership with local colleges, expanding "dual enrollment courses." He said he wants to "drive home the point that high schools are not walled-off institutions."
Moore was asked about the challenges high schools, including Staples, will face in the coming years.
"We have to deal with the ongoing digital revolution," he said, adding students are now capable of retrieving "an incredible range of information" using only their phones.
"In schools we are still struggling with what we do with this power," he added. "It brings us possibilities, but also loss ... We don't want kids to flip their laptops open. We want to build student to student engagement."
As for curriculum, Moore asked: "What if 90 percent of what we teach is useless? ... Lots of what we teach might not be relevant in the future."
Moore said he has an open administration and visits three classrooms each day. With students, he said, "We are not in the business to punish, but to change behavior, to be fair."
"The students know they can see me anytime," he said, adding he got a letter from a student that meant a lot to him. "It said, `You are invested in us.' That was huge," he said.
Asked why he is interested in leaving Ramapo, Moore said it's a "push-pull situation."
"The pull is Westport. I love my school, but this is an extraordinary place," he said of Staples.
If hired, Moore said he wouldn't change anything at Staples the first year. "I would listen and get to know the community, staff and students," he said. He said that, although he may talk a lot, "great principals are also great listeners."
Moore, who lives in Ramsey, N.J., with his wife and three young children, was asked if he would relocate.
"Yes, because it would take a few rides over the Tapanzee Bridge if I didn't," he quipped, adding his family is aware that would happen if he's hired as the next Staples principal.