by Rebecca Shwartz
Dr. Brett Kustigian
Why do you want to be the superintendent of Hudson Public Schools?
I think Hudson is an up and coming community. Hudson is also very similar to Quaboag in the demographics; they’re almost identical. The major difference is that Hudson has more students and is located next to major highways. The location of Hudson is very appealing, and I feel that it is a perfect match. Hudson aligns perfectly with my beliefs of maintaining high standards of academic excellence, preparing all students to be intellectually serious, academically competent, and being successful, active citizens in competitive global environments.
How will you address the growing mental health issues that students are facing?
That is not unique to Hudson. That is an issue that I’m dealing with currently in my district. It’s also a state and nationwide issue, and let me explain how I’m addressing it in my district. When I first came to Quaboag, we had four advanced placement classes, and we currently have thirteen, and it’s an example of how we raised the academic rigor at Quaboag. When you raise the academic rigor, it causes stress for students, and we have a lot of students that are taking three, four, five, sometimes even six AP classes. With that amount of stress, you need to make sure that students are healthy, that they feel safe, that they feel supported, and that they have an optimal learning environment.
One of the things we’ve done is we’ve created a districtwide wellness program, and what we do at the high school is that we have a wellness coordinator. What she does is that she has these videos we play around five minutes long, and before certain classes, they’ll relax and run through a few mental exercises and stretches to make sure kids are in the right mindset as they go on to learn new things. If you’re not in the right mindset to learn, it’s very difficult. I can tell you it’s been very, very successful at the high school level, and we’re also starting to do it at the elementary level, so we have students from the high school like athletes, singers, students the younger students look up to running through these mental exercises on video and showing it to the elementary students. It puts them at ease, makes them feel comfortable and safe, and it creates a positive learning environment. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the schools.
What do you see as strengths and weaknesses in our district?
I look forward to meeting everyone, as I’ve only met select people. I’ve been to the town many times. I like the downtown area, and it’s part of the appeal, the downtown revitalization project. I would have to wait until I get more information to make a determination on strengths and weaknesses. I can tell you that the community has a tremendous amount of strength, and it’s getting statewide recognition for the revitalization project. I think with the schools, the Level 3 school (one of the lowest levels a school can be) concerns me, and that would be something I’d really like to see the issues behind it there.
How does your experience make you a great candidate for this district?
So, I’ve been superintendent of Quaboag going on nine years now. My favorite author, Malcolm Gladwell, he’s written many books, and one of the books called Outliers is where he talks about the ten thousand hour rule. The rule says people need to practice at least three hours a day for ten years in order to master a craft, and whether the craft is athletics or academics, he argues it takes at least ten thousand hours to get good at something. I would say that I’m somewhere between ten to twelve hours of work a day since becoming superintendent, and as a result, I’ve put in thousands of hours, and I’m very well versed when it comes to issues in education, so I’m ready to take on a larger school district.
Do you have a transition plan for the district?
I would say that I would hit the ground listening, and, you know, my mother used to tell me, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” and that is basically how I would start. I would listen, listen, listen. I would go out to the students, to the teachers, to the community members, to the parents, to pretty much anybody that will provide feedback. From there, gather all that data, and then come up with a plan to make Hudson a Level 1 school district, and that would be my goal – to reach Level 1 and to become one of the best school districts.