When freshman Nida Shaikh first got in the car with Avon Superintendent Gary Mala for her stint as Superintendent for the Day, she already had one question: "I was like, so, Mr. Mala. What powers do I get?" Shaikh asked.
Shaikh, who grew up in Syracuse, NY, and has lived in Avon for five years, said she won the opportunity through an online auction at a gala, an Avon Education Foundation and PTO fundraiser.
"I was literally jumping up and down because I thought it would be a cool and fun experience," Shaikh said.
This was the first time offered someone the chance to walk in the superintendent's shoes.
"I just reflected on a way to allow students an opportunity to see different parts of how school districts operate, and I just have this commitment to maintaining as much contact with students over the course of my works, as possible," Mala said.
Shaikh, mathematician and artist extraordinaire, would soon learn how busy a superintendent is. Her agenda was packed by the hour, so she was surprised when Mala said it was a "light" day.
Shaikh dove right into the job at 8:30 a.m., sitting in on the monthly full-staff meeting at the Central Office where offices for the school administrative staff are located. Among the topics discussed were school board finances, the curriculum, the district's technology plan and pupil services.
After a brief interview with the press in the late morning, she was off to with Mala to meet with Town Manager Brandon Robertson. The trio discussed the final draft of the district's strategic plan. Then it was time for her first official business lunch.
Perusing menus from various Avon restaurants, Shaikh was in the mood for pizza, which she ate during a noon business lunch with Mala, Assistant Superintendent and district Interim Finance Director . Together, they reviewed the monthly financial report that will be presented at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, as well as a Curriculum Professional Development Council report summary.
The lunch also presented an opportunity for Shaikh to share her ideas for education reform in the district.
"One would be to encourage teachers to lighten the homework or give no homework on weekends. On weekdays, it doesn't matter, but on weekends, what's the point of a day off if you're just absorbed in work? It's really unhealthy and people are just exhausted on Monday," Shaikh said.
Giving students time to have fun on weekends would allow them to recharge before returning to school, Shaikh said.
"Plus, if they're just absorbed in their work all the time, then they can't go out and talk to people and their social skills will eventually go down," she added. "I'm sure the majority of the people are going to go into maybe business or trading, which requires a lot of talking, so how are people supposed to close business deals if they don't even know how to speak properly?.... Instead it feels like the zombie apocalypse."
Her other suggestion was to have each of four lunch periods at the high school designated to one grade so people could sit with their classmates and friends.
After the productive lunch, she judged a door decorating contest at and then visited , where she also said 'hello' to her favorite former teachers.
To conclude the day, she and Mala met with Nestler-Rusack and Spang again to go over next week's schedule and develop leadership team meeting agendas.
Is education administration in Shaikh's future?
She said she'd like to be a Certified Public Accountant or an accountant some day, but she enjoyed the opportunity and said the staff was very kind.
How did she do on her first day as superintendent?
"She's a good listener, and she's willing to work on the fly," Mala said.
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