In his new position as assistant superintendent of curriculum in the Homer Central School District, Jeff Evener, said Tuesday his goals are simple:
“To listen, to learn and then see where I need to lead,” he said. “But that’s only going to come through conversations with the people who work here and who’ve worked here prior to my arrival. They are the experts. They know the community.”
Evener plans to get to know the community, in addition to his main goal of supporting teachers, as he began his new position last month in the Homer Central School District. The position, he said, marks the next step in his career of reaching his dream of becoming a district superintendent.
Evener, 44, who grew up in Groton, began his career in education after graduating from SUNY Cortland and receiving his Certificate of Advanced Study in education in 2002, he said. That year, he began his teaching in the Auburn Enlarged City School District as a middle school history teacher.
He worked in that position until 2011 when he left for the Groton Central School District to become the principal of the middle school and athletic director before going to Lansing Central School District to be the middle school principal in 2014.
His second stint in Auburn came a year later to serve as assistant superintendent for personnel and operations until the end of the last school year.
Living in Groton and commuting to Auburn daily, especially with his two sons, started to take a toll.
“I needed to get closer to home,” Evener said. He used to drive 45 minutes each day to get to work. “And now that I’m in this role, I’m 15 minutes from my house.”
Evener gave three reasons for seeking the Homer job:
The district provides many educational and extracurricular activities to engage students.
The position was very similar to his one in Auburn as he has oversight of the curriculum, instruction and assessment programs throughout the district.
The friendliness of the staff and families.
“They’re so welcoming to me,” he said. “I’m an outsider, I’m nobody. Everybody I run into, from students to faculty and staff, community members to parents, they have been so gracious and so bend-over-backwards helpful to my transition from Auburn to Homer, I can’t be happier.”
Likewise, staff at the district have been ready to receive Evener.
“I’m incredibly excited he’s joining us,” said Homer High School Principal Doug VanEtten.
In his position at Homer, Evener said there are three areas he’s responsible for — curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Curriculum deals with what the district teaches; instruction deals with how subjects are taught; assessment deals with how the district measures what it teaches and the effectiveness of that, he said.
He works with teachers to develop the essential standards for education for each grade level, but how that’s done is up to the teacher.
Evener, though, helps provide space and training, for example, to help teachers hone their teaching skills and creativity for lesson delivery.
This is critical because teachers need to continue to update and evolve their teaching methods to best suit their students.
Evener likened teachers to doctors in this regard.
“Do you want a doctor practicing medicine that was relevant in 1950?” he said. “Absolutely not. You want them on the tip of the spear for modern medicine, just like we want teachers on the tip of the spear of effective, research-based instructional strategies.”
As the school year approaches, Evener said the biggest challenges will deal with bringing back all students to in-person learning after the pandemic caused switches to remote learning. Readjusting to that and calming fears about having students back together will be part of that.
The district will also look into how it will use money from the American Rescue Plan Act, which could include HVAC and other building upgrades though nothing has been set, Evener said.
The district is scheduled to get $4.4 million, according to a district newsletter from July.
As Evener settles into his new role, he wants parents to know that their students will receive a top-level education.
“They’re going to be prepared for college, a career, military, whatever they decide to do after their 13 years with us,” Evener said. “They are going to be able to read, write and listen and speak at a high level. Those are the four key skills you need to be successful in every area. If you can do those four things well, you can be successful.”