B y Derek Liebig
When Roger Forando wraps up his appointment later this week as dean of students at Whitehall High School, it will culminate an educational career spanning five decades.
During that time Forando, who began his career in 1969, has witnessed, firsthand, profound changes in the world around him and in the field of academia.
“The world and education operated at a slower pace. There were no computers, cell phones, internet, cable TV or Xbox. Teachers taught and students learned. Fast forward now to 2014, 45 years later and there are many more challenges.”
Changes in family structure, budgetary concerns and omnipresent technology have created a seismic shift in the way society views education and the ways in which educators teach.
“The education and teaching styles my colleagues and I provided in the ‘good old days’ is long gone; students are bolder in expressing what they like and don’t like about their daily education,” Forando said. “Teachers are challenged to find a way to get students to invest and be engaged in their education.”
Forando said the “now generation” wants results now and students sometimes are unable to see the value and need for lessons and knowledge they may not immediately use.
“I have a poster on my office wall that correlates education to employability skills and what employers look for in a prospect,” he said. “Sometimes students don’t see that correlation.”
Forando was hired by Granville Central School as fresh-faced graduate in 1969, one of 18 young teachers given their first teaching job that year. Many of those teachers would spend most of or their entire career in Granville and they occasionally get together to discuss the “good old days” in education.
Forando continued to be employed by the district for the next 34 years, retiring in 2003 as one of the district’s guidance counselors. But the retirement was more symbolic than anything.
“Even though I officially retired from the Granville school system, I never actually retired,” Forando said.
Later that year, he agreed to be a part-time counselor at Poultney (Vt.) High School before eventually becoming the school’s director of guidance.
During his last year at Poultney he became president of the Vermont School Counselors Association, a position he parlayed into an appointment on the advisory board of the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, a position he still holds today.
After “retiring” from Poultney, Forando worked as a traveling admissions counselor for Green Mountain College and later Southern Vermont College, positions that allowed him to see one of the biggest dilemmas currently facing politicians and educators: The cost of college.
During last week’s State of Union Address, President Barack Obama spoke about the need to improve access for higher education and in the past year he has raised the possibility of creating a college scorecard that would rate institutions based on their value.
“A college education then (the 1960s) cost $10,000; not it may cost a family $60,000 or more. That is a major problem, when you consider the four-year investment in a degree that may not hold a strong employment forecast for the money spent,” Forando said.
Last fall, Whitehall High School Principal Kelly McHugh asked Forando if he would like to serve as temporary dean of students until a fulltime replacement could be found. The position was left vacant after Chris Palmer accepted a position outside of the district.
As dean of students, Forando is responsible for meeting with and disciplining students who have behavioral issues or have broken school rules.
“I think most students believe I’m fair and listen to whatever their reasons are for breaking the rules, even if they don’t agree with the consequence,” Forando said.
Although his appointment was to be for the remainder of the school year, the position is being phased out by Superintendent Elizabeth Legault, who replaced longtime superintendent James Watson last December.
Forando will be replaced by two behavioral specialists who will work with “behaviorally challenged” students and try and reengage them in their education. Although he is reluctant to leave, Forando concedes the program is worth trying.
“There is a definite need for the program, or a similar program to keep kids in school and doing school work so they can get a basic education,” he said. “A high school diploma is an absolute basic necessity in the 21st century and anything less for students is unacceptable.”