Interview with Our New Superintendent
Dr. Molacek, the new PASB superintendent, visited the school during the week of 16-20th of May. With this, the Scoop had the opportunity to reveal some inside details about our new head of school in order get a better feel for the direction our school is going. Read more to get to know Dr. Molacek’s ideas for the next years at PASB!
Scoop: What are you most excited for next year at PASB?
Dr. Molacek: There’s a lot of things I’m excited for. The school is on a track to be an even better place; there are friendly students, focused teachers, and everyone is working towards the school as a whole. I didn’t see “individual pockets of me things”, instead I saw people focused on the mission and the vision to make sure that the school is the best possible place. I could feel that around here, everybody just wants what is good for all.
Scoop: What are your new ideas or things you want to incorporate to PASB?
Dr. Molacek: I think it is too early to tell. For the first few months, I want to look at what is going on. Then we see if that is the right direction. I want to be the person helping lead everyone to get in the direction they want to go in. It is never about me, it is about what the community wants.
Scoop: One major issue at PASB is communication between students and administration. How do you plan to address that?
Dr. Molacek: Communication is a major point from the community as a whole. I think it revolves around how people want to be communicated with. Some people like email, hard copy, etc. so I want to look at how best to communicate what is going on. I want to be clear on the successes and the challenges so that everybody knows what is going on at the school.
Scoop: Continuing on that subject, many students feel like their initiatives are not supported by the school administration. How do you believe we can improve this situation?
Dr. Molacek: Maybe it is a perception issue, or it is about giving a rationale for decisions and making sure that the rationale is communicated with the student groups. It sounds that students have ideas that they don’t feel like they were listened to, and one of the things is communicate and provide a rationale why. I would do this through student council or student organizations, which I have worked with when I was in Indonesia. I don’t like emails - they are too impersonal - but they are important when you want to talk to many people and you want to send the same message. If possible, I prefer face to face.
Scoop: How do you feel about the current political turmoil and economic crisis in our country? How will that affect our school?
Dr. Molacek: I don’t know much about it as of yet; I know only about what I see in the news, without having too much direct experience the “inside story” with it. I’ve worked in crisis situations before, specifically in Latvia during the 2008 economic downturn, in which Latvia was classified as the worst economy in the world. With that said, I have experience in that type of situation. It was interesting, because one of the jobs they wanted me to do was build a new building. We had a loan from an Austrian bank and donated land to construct it, but when the crisis hit, the Austrian bank did not give the loan, and the land was taken away. So we built the school somewhere else. We negotiated the loan again and got another place to build.
We need to look at the possibilities and not react to the negative. I think Brazil has so many interesting things going on. Infrastructure, beauty, social environment, rather than focusing on the negatives, we should look at things half full rather than half empty. I am a realist, so I always remember that every country has problems; Brazil’s happens to be economic and politics. There is no place that is perfect, so you have to work within the reality.
How this will impact us is a different matter. We have to approach this from the idea of cost and value, so that parents continue to see the value instead of the cost and hopefully make the necessary changes in their budget. Hiring is a little hard because you get a skewed view from the media, and that is a barrier we need to break when dealing with hiring staff. One of the things people say is safety, but that is not truly a reality because I feel safe. Being honest and realistic with people is what matters most to develop relationships of trust with them, and it is important to tell them that [bad] things will happen wherever you are. You have to know your environment and understand what you can and can’t do there.
Scoop: Many teachers are leaving every year. What is your plan for keeping good teachers here and bringing qualified personnel!?
Dr. Molacek: We have to look at why they are leaving. Is it economic, safety, Brazil in general? Also, we should do things to make them feel part of the community. When I hire I try to be honest about what is going on, to paint a realistic picture of Brazil so that they know where they are going and they want to stay once they get here. We should make adjustments so that teachers feel like their needs are met, and that they are well taken care of.
Scoop: Your wife is teaching IB Psychology here at PASB, which is a great addition to the program! What other new IB subjects and courses do you plan to offer students?
Dr. Molacek: I’ll have to sit with the principal, coordinator and administration to try to provide as much course selection and choice. My goal is to provide a good solid education that allows students to go to the next level. We’ll have to look at our strands and design things as we go. I’ll have to talk to the college counsellor to look at where students are going and their interests so we can adapt our school to best fit these needs. We have a tough challenge in melting the Brazilian Program and the IB Diploma, so we should talk to students and parents, look at graduates, and always ask ourselves what could we do better. We will have an ongoing conversation with the colleges and students to analyze their choices in order to design our courses to meet their needs.
Scoop: Last year you mentioned improving the school's infrastructure. What do mean by that, and what changes do you plan to do?
Dr. Molacek: There’s a master plan to build an entire new school in some phases. The buildings are older and there is not enough space for students, and it is a critical need to look at the buildings, and to make sure we can provide an environment that is conducive to learning, and that is one of the key issues that we’ll be looking at.
Scoop: How do you believe students should be recognized for their effort during the year? How were end of year ceremonies done at your old school, and do you know any specific ways to recognize students for their outstanding efforts, leadership skills, etc?
Dr. Molacek: Daniel Pink wrote a book about motivation. He says that what motivates people aren’t rewards, for they do not motivate students to strive to do better. I think motivation is the key. In Southeast Asia in Korea, when students apply to colleges, they are required to submit every single certificate they ever received in High School to the places they want to study, and I had to sign each one of them. It becomes more of a collection rather than a motivation. What makes people want to strive and work for is a growth mindset - you should praise the effort instead of the final product. If you praise the product it demotivates, so you need to praise the effort to strive to learn. I will look into how to design a way so people are honored for the effort they put into learning instead of their final grades.
Scoop: What is your general position on uniforms? Do they help the learning environment?
Dr. Molacek: I grew up in a Catholic school with dress code and uniforms. In US public schools, there were no uniforms, neither in Latvia. For me, a uniform takes away the “status” idea because of the experience I had in Latvia. It became something that students wore Dolce & Gabbana to show how much money they had. I think having uniforms takes away some stress for students and parents, and removed the “let me show you how much money I have” type of thing. If I would be lenient on this… I’ve got to look at the history of PASB. Talk to me in a couple months. I want to see the debate and understand what is really going on. Indonesia has uniforms and the US has dress code, and there were huge debates about dress code enforcement, so it became more of a policement rather than a form of freedom.
Unfortunately, there was not enough time to get through all of the questions on the list, so we honestly apologize if your questions weren’t answered! It is clear that Dr. Molacek wants to listen to students, teachers, and parents before making any decisions about the future of our community. We hope that communication is improved and that positive relationships are developed for a brighter PASB future. The Scoop looks forward to a positive and innovative 2016-2017 school year under the leadership of Dr. Molacek.
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