Saturday, January 28, 2023

New YCSD Superintendent Reflects on Building Relationships after First Week on the Job

York County School Division Superintendent Victor Shandor (Photo by Ian Brickey, WYDaily).
York County School Division Superintendent Victor Shandor (Photo by Ian Brickey, WYDaily).

The new chief of York County Schools began his new job last week by coming home.

Dr. Victor Shandor officially assumed his duties as superintendent of the York County School Division Nov. 3. Shandor had to relocate to York County from Georgia to accept the position, but the trip was a homecoming of sorts.

After graduating from California University in Pennsylvania with a degree in communications, Shandor said he had difficulty finding a job in his field. He accepted a teaching assistant position in Hampton Roads, working with special needs children as a temporary solution until a communications job emerged. His plans changed quickly, however, when interactions with one special needs student changed his career path.

“He responded to me,” Shandor said. “I absolutely loved it, and within two or three months, [I] went back to Old Dominion and started pursuing my master’s degree in special education and sort of worked my way up through the ranks, from a school community trainer to a teacher to an educational specialist to a principal at [the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs in Norfolk, or SeCEP] for five years.”

He eventually received an education specialist degree from George Washington University and a doctorate in educational leadership from Wingate University.

After his time at SeCEP, an educational organization functioning as a regional public school for special and alternative education, Shandor served as the director of Exceptional Children’s Programs for Cabarrus County Schools in North Carolina, and most recently as superintendent of Fulton County Schools in Georgia, which included 24 schools and more than 25,000 students.

Shandor spent his first week in YCSD in cabinet meetings, getting to know division administrators, School Board members and central office staff. He also made time to visit Bruton, Grafton and Tabb High Schools, where he met with teachers and students.

“[The students] talked specifically about how they know when they have a good teacher when they can feel how much that teacher supports them, how much they care about them, how much they inspire them, how much they motivate them, and they can tell how much the teacher loves teaching and what their passion for teaching is,” he said.

He has scheduled visits to York High School and York River Academy next week, but said he plans to visit every building in the school division by February.

Those visits fit into what Shandor believes is his most important goal — building relationships and engaging with teachers, principals, staff members, students and parents. Shandor said engagement with the entire YCSD community would be essential to the school division’s success.

“The people make up the organization, so we’ve got to make sure we have positive relationships,” he said.

Shandor said YCSD was a “first look district,” in that families look to settle down and teachers beginning their job searches look to York County as their first choice destination. That “first look” status applied to his own job search.

“The minute it was posted, it was almost like it was a sign,” Shandor said. “I knew I wanted to get back here. … I have three small children, so my kids will love this community.”

Shandor also said the school division’s reputation for excellence stayed with students and their families, as many YCSD employees are graduates of its schools. Whether they grew up in York County Schools or not, though, Shandor said making sure the school division hired top talent in teachers, principals and administrators, and continued to develop their professional skills, would be one of his major goals.

“You have to set the bar high for all the adults in the organization,” he said. “For me, I think that’s a culture where people want to come to work every day and do their best, because they know we have this sort of collective commitment to where we’re headed.”

Shandor defined that commitment as a combination of three elements: compassion, adaptability and resiliency.

Going into his second week and beyond, Shandor said he was working on a 60-day plan that included meeting with small groups of staff members in various departments and soliciting feedback on division operations. He said his goal is to meet with every division and visit every school — hopefully meeting with every staff member — by February.

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