Whitaker Is Named New JPS Superintendent
Dr. Kevin Whitaker has been named the next superintendent of the Jamestown Public Schools District.
The decision was announced during a special meeting of the school board Monday evening. Whitaker will replace Dr. Bret Apthorpe, who announced earlier this year he planned to retire June 30.
Whitaker has served as the assistant superintendent for school improvement and accountability at Geneva City School District since 2013.
“I am very pleased with our selection of Dr. Whitaker as our new superintendent,” said Paul Abbott, Jamestown Board of Education president. “Dr. Whitaker’s extensive qualifications and experience will be an asset to our district. We had an extremely deep pool of knowledgeable, accomplished candidates ensuring that we have an exceptional superintendent to be at the helm when our district schools re-open their doors.”
“It was a difficult process made by a difficult time right now. We had a great search consultant and had a great, deep pool of candidates, but from the beginning, Dr. Whitaker stood out,” Patrick Slagle, board of education vice president, said. “Not just his answers to the questions, but the process and how he answered the questions stood out. We felt very early on that he was a top candidate and as we got to know him better, we knew that his vision and his passion for what our district could be is what we need right now.”
Whitaker, a native of the Rochester area, told The Post-Journal after the board’s announcement that he has always been drawn to small city school districts.
“I’ve always chased after places where it’s possible where students aren’t realizing what they can realize,” he said. “Especially in small cities, there are certain populations that don’t take advantage of all the opportunities they could have and small cities are the place where diversity and equity come to the floor.”
Jamestown fit that bill, he said, despite being nearly double the size of 2,500-student Geneva.
“This sky is the limit for this district,” he said.
“It is a gem. I don’t know if everyone realizes that, I’m not sure if everyone outside of the district realizes that, but this is a gem of a district. This is a destination district and what we will attempt to do is show people both in and outside the district what an incredible place it is and that they should bring their kids here because of the opportunities that we’re going to offer.”
Whitaker earned a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology as well as a master’s degree in teaching from Union College in Schenectady, a certificate of advanced study from SUNY Brockport and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Rochester.
Prior to his appointment in Geneva, Whitaker served as the principal of Newark High School in Wayne County for nearly 10 years after spending four years as an assistant principal at Churchville-Chili Senior High School, during which period he served with Apthorpe, who has offered to assist the new superintendent in any way possible.
“(Apthorpe) is a good guy,” he said. “He’s got institutional knowledge and history. I know Bret. We’re friendly and I know he’s a great guy and will be able to help me work through some things and I’ll be able to turn to him for some issues.”
Whitaker will take over in unprecedented times as school districts around the country work to figure out how best to re-open after the outbreak COVID-19 forced a premature end to in-person instruction. On top of that, he will also inherit a district whose pending budget forces seven layoffs for teachers and other staff; the temporary elimination of the Success Academy and P-Tech programs; the axing of all field trips; and the holding off on 40 hirings that included bringing in 23 teachers.
“I’m not a genius, but what I can do is marshal a group’s work,” Whitaker said regarding the challenges that face the district. “The geniuses are all of us connected and all of us participating and contributing, so together we will sort through this time.”
He also said his background experience being as both a firefighter and EMT also should aide him in terms of emergency response.
“In terms of emergency leadership, there’s that,” he said. “But this is kind of a community process through an unprecedented public health process and that’s where you have to reach out to other experts, medical experts, experts on trauma, whether it’s student or adult and work them through this process. Dr. Apthorpe has started that process of putting together a group that puts together the objectives for returning to school with safety as a number one is the right way to go.”
“There is a lot to do,” Slagle said. “Obviously we’re facing an unprecedented school opening, so it’s a difficult time and we’re not taking it easy on him. But, we know that he’s the right guy for the job. He’s going to do well for us.”
Whitaker expects to begin his term on July 1, but his resignation is pending approval from the Geneva school district which will meet next Wednesday.
“I’m in this for the kids,” he said. “Not only am I all in on the community, but I’m in it for the kids. Any decisions that I’d be looking to make, any frame of reference that we’d be discussing is with kids in the center and that’s what my job is about. I’m here as a guardian of kids, guardian of safety and guardian of equity and I’m focused on their experience and having them be educated and graduated so they can live lives of consequence.”