Watertown’s new school superintendent ‘excited to return home’

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:09 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:15 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - After being formally appointed as Watertown City School District superintendent, Dr. Larry Schmiegel gives us a glimpse of his vision for the district.

Donning a purple shirt and bow tie, Dr. Larry Schmiegel is officially a Watertown Cyclone.

“I’m extremely excited to return home,” he said.

A principal at a Florida high school, Schmiegel is from Chittenango and has worked for the Syracuse and Oswego city school districts.

Schmiegel says his first priority is to listen and learn.

“There are diverse thinkers in the district that have some great ideas. There’s things that happened in the district years past that I want to look at and see what the impact of those decisions were, and how that drives student achievement moving forward,” he said.

One thing on Schmiegel’s radar is the rise of behavioral issues in many schools, especially after the pandemic.

“Teachers need to know that sometimes we need to pause instruction and focus on relationship-building opportunities. Teachers are under a lot of pressure with state-wide and federal-wide accountability systems that are in place, so to have that freedom and be able to stop and go back and touch on some of those relationship, trust-building, capacity building activities are very important,” he said.

Schmiegel says he’ll also prioritize attendance in school with an emphasis on engaging students in extra-curricular activities, somewhere they feel they belong.

“I do believe if we can get kids excited and get kids in school, we can keep them, we can graduate them, and really provide them a solid foundation beyond their K-12 experience,” he said.

Schmiegel called the interviewing process “transparent” and “rigorous.” He says during round one of interviews, the school board asked him “What would you change on day one?” His answer: nothing.

“If it’s not safety related, the first thing I need to do is go in and build relational capacity with everyone within the organization,” he said.

Schmeigel’s first day at Watertown is May 1.

“When I go to work every day, I have a purpose, and my purpose is kids. And making sure we as adults are able to meet the needs of our kids, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”