Meeting Radnor’s New Superintendent: Mr. Kenneth E. Batchelor

Source: www.rtsd.org

Emilija Sagaityte

When I was in seventh grade, Radnor was confronted with the same challenge it faced last year: to find a superintendent. To assist with the search, several middle and high school students, myself included, were invited to attend a meeting and provide input on what we would like to see in the new head of our school district. I can barely remember the details of the majority of what was said during the lengthy conversation, but I still remember one interesting point brought up by a high school student that many other students and me echoed afterwards. She passionately stated that she would like the district to choose a superintendent who would interact with the students, stressing how during her time at Radnor, she had never seen the superintendent at school or gotten a chance to talk to him.

I am still unaware of the extent to which the students’ suggestions were taken into consideration and what the ultimate outcome of this meeting was, but four years later, I find myself in the same position as that high school student from the meeting. I have gone through my fare share of superintendents during my eleven years at Radnor, and I’m sure that they all made significant contributions to our schools. Sadly, however, if I happened to run into any of them on the streets of Wayne, I would not recognize them, and I don’t think I am the only student who would admit to this.

I officially met our new superintendent for an interview a few weeks ago. I was sitting at the RHS library, where he had offered to meet me for convenience, anxiously scanning over my questions, when I peered up and saw a tall, lean figure stride in through the doors. I deduced that this man was likely the superintendent, given his dark suit, but when he then turned in my direction, I instantly identified him as Kenneth E. Batchelor. He warmly shook my hand, introducing himself, and sat down across from me at the table, though the introduction was hardly necessary.

Mr. Batchelor had become an active member of the Radnor school community even before he officially assumed his position on January 30th, meeting and talking to students, parents, and teachers. He had attended the Radnor Breakfast with Santa in December, had spoken at the district-wide MLK Day in January, had stopped by classrooms, and had visited the high school to wish the students taking the Biology Olympiad exam good luck.

As a student, I find it a compliment that our new superintendent is so invested in the district and eager to meet its members. Even during the time that I spoke to Mr. Batchelor, he appeared to be genuinely interested in not only kindly and thoughtfully answering my questions but also getting to know the school and me better. He asked me about my interests and activities and even questioned me about what I thought of the school-issued iPad that I had been taking notes on. A little while into the conversation, I no longer felt like I was timidly interviewing a superior administrator but like I was casually conversing with a teacher or a friend.

Mr. Batchelor’s interest in Radnor is one of the reasons he chose to apply for the superintendent position after Michael Kelly stepped down. While previously serving as the Assistant to the Superintendent at Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (UCFSD), he was already considering looking for a superintendent position. The fit between what the Radnor School Board was looking for in a new superintendent and Mr. Batchelor’s prior experiences, as well as his admiration for Radnor from afar, made this the perfect opportunity for him. There has been instability in Radnor over the past years in regards to superintendents, prompting community members to ask for more continuity in Radnor’s school administration. The School Board strove to achieve this, and it successfully found a superintendent with the same goals. During his nine years at UCFSD, Mr. Batchelor had directly witnessed the positive effects of having that stability. He noted that it grants the superintendent sufficient time to get to know everyone and get invested in the township. He is therefore glad to be on a five-year contract with RTSD, the longest possible, and hopes to continue to be a part of our district beyond that time.

After being appointed to the position, Mr. Batchelor did not delay in starting his job as superintendent and began to familiarize himself with the township, and through this dedication, he has certainly already proved his worthiness of the title.

Superintendent Mr. Batchelor will have to manage the district, ensure accountability, and be receptive to the staff, faculty, and community. As a part of administration, he will also have to work closely with the school board. Mr. Batchelor acknowledges the challenges that accompany his role, the primary one right now being his need to be patient in order to become better acquainted with Radnor Township School District. Nonetheless, he seeks to “listen and learn,” and has already attended PTO and faculty meetings and hopes to engage in focus groups with students to identify the strengths of the district, as well as what can be improved. For this same reason, he had sent out a survey to teachers and students on February 2nd, asking them what they believe are the strengths, challenges, and goals of RTSD – an action that I had not yet seen an administrator do – thereby showing his desire to hear from district members of all ages.

Not to mention, Mr. Batchelor’s understanding of and close relationship to children may be attributed to his own six kids, spanning grades K through 12 at West Chester. “My kids are all very different,” reflects Mr. Batchelor, “and seeing what they experience helps ground me to be a better administrator.”

He seeks to dedicate his time to helping the kids in Radnor, believing that getting to know the children better benefits everyone – families, teachers, and staff. He remarks that the school district is an exemplary place to learn and therefore wants to see programs in schools that properly and appropriately challenge students at all levels so that they may learn and grow more as individuals. Moving forward, Mr. Batchelor thus wants to devote some of his attention on Radnor’s process of evaluating school programs, as well. He observes how schools often seek to just keep adding programs, but sometimes it is necessary to remove ineffective programs so that more time and money could be allocated towards building upon successful ones. Nevertheless, he understands that the district needs time to identify which programs must be kept, created, or cut so that all such actions are carefully thought-out. The key is finding the right balance, and Mr. Batchelor once again stresses the importance of communication between all members of the district so that this may be accomplished.

Mr. Batchelor has gotten off to a praiseworthy start at Radnor Township School District, assimilating himself into the township and rising beyond the position of “superintendent,” which is nominal to many children, by striving to become a true friend of the township.

“I am humbled and excited to be a part of the district,” comments Mr. Batchelor wholeheartedly, “and I look forward to unlocking the potential in all of our students and in our whole organization because then the opportunities for our students will be great.”

Undoubtedly, our school district will continue to thrive under Mr. Batchelor’s leadership, and may we all wish him another warm welcome to Radnor!