By Kristin Schultz
His new title sounds vague and perhaps vaguely impersonal. But John Moskov, the recently appointed director of pupil personnel services for the Niskayuna Central School District, knows precisely the needs of special education students and teachers.
Moskov is direct and honest about both the successes in the district and the challenges facing it. Whether talking about successfully shifting the culture at the high school level or addressing capacity issues in the face of changing demographics, Moskov’s passion for his work is obvious.
In his new position, he will oversee a portion of student services in the district, including counseling; social work; physical, occupational and speech therapies; psychology; and teacher assistants.
Moskov, a 1993 graduate of Niskayuna High School, returned to teach at his alma mater in 2002. In 2015 he became assistant principal and will take his new position on July 1.
Moskov pursued a career serving special needs children and adults after spending a summer working at the Easterseals of New York’s Camp Colonie at age 16.
“I just needed a summer job, but the experience really opened my eyes,” he said. “I realized they were no different than others at the table, they just needed something to level the playing field.”
After earning a history degree from the University at Albany, Moskov went to work for Easterseals New Hampshire before transferring to the Albany region. He returned to school and to teaching, earning a master’s degree in special education.
“I never set out to be in administration,” Moskov said. “I went into teaching to teach.”
He taught in the classroom for 13 years. Then a position opened up in the administrative office.
“I applied because I felt I could support the students and teachers on a larger scale,” Moskov said. “But I told them I’d be just as happy to stay in the classroom.”
He did land the job and his No. 1 goal was to meet both student and teacher needs. Over the last two years, there has been a concerted effort to shift the culture at the high school from a heavy-handed, top down model.
“The focus is on collaboration toward meeting student needs,” Moskov said. “It has been well-received and there is a different culture now.”
It is that effort and accomplishment that makes moving from the high school to the district offices bittersweet, but Moskov looks forward to duplicating the success in other buildings.
“Everybody has a say and a voice,” he said. “It’s important to be transparent and keep people involved.”
Drawing on his incrementally expanding view of the school system from the classroom to the district to the community as a whole, Moskov has clear goals for himself as he transitions into his new role.
Among the short-term goals are taking steps to make sure that teachers and staff in buildings across the district feel secure and supported and ensuring there are consistent processes and procedures in place that staff can rely on to aid them in their duties.
In the years to come, Moskov would like to establish a process-oriented department that sets vision and makes decisions collaboratively. He wants to expand current partnerships with neighboring districts and explore new ways to share resources.
“It’s important to have a department that exhausts all its resources to meet student and teacher needs,” he said.
As the student needs change and grow, his department will also need to change and grow. He said there is an increased need for counselors, social workers and psychologists. He’d like to see a mental health clinic incorporated into the district.
Beyond the administrative offices, Moskov is determined to find new and better ways to engage families in their children’s education from the beginning by sharing classroom objectives with parents and giving them real, practical strategies to give parents the confidence to be a partner with the schools in student learning.
“Whether it’s back-to-school night or parent-teacher conferences, our interaction with families has to be more meaningful,” he said.
Perhaps the district would consider changing his title to Director of Leveling the Playing Field, Resourcing, Supporting and Empowering Staff and Engaging Families. It may be a long and cumbersome title, but it might also more accurately capture his passion and capability.
“I graduated from here,” he said. “I spent time away and gained outside perspective. There’s no other place I’d rather raise my family. It’s important to be in the community. Our families deserve that level of commitment.”