Nick Criscone must be a pretty dedicated guy.
As the principal at Mayfield Elementary School in Fulton County, Criscone would drive to work 45 minutes one way – an hour and a half both ways – every day. He did this every day for 12 years. Despite that distance, he was known for being very involved in school affairs at Mayfield and was always there for night activities.
Now, as Glen-Worden Elementary’s principal since December, Criscone lives eight minutes away in Charlton. He’ll be able to continue his involvement in the lives and affairs of students and families without having to worry about that long drive home.
Criscone, 44, sees teachers and staff members as the greatest asset at Glen-Worden as he embarks to give GW even stronger connections to its families.
“I’m trying to find out what teachers and staff need. I want to find ways to make teaching better; they all want to be great teachers,” he said. “That’s why they went into this profession.”
He’s begun an initiative in which teachers walk around with him during their open times to check out other classrooms. “If they teach kindergarten, that may be the only classroom they have ever known,” he said. “They may want to see what is happening in a first or third grade classroom.”
Each teacher will share their thoughts and observations at a faculty meeting. Criscone hopes that this opportunity allows teachers to also see other teaching techniques and strategies and to basically open up communications between staff members.
Another initiative that Criscone is pressing is open, direct communication with parents. He has begun a few ways of reaching out directly to parents for everything from emergencies to reminders and announcements:
1. He’s asked parent to provide their emails to the office to be included in a mass email. About half of the parents have signed up as of late January. There are 179 families at Glen-Worden.
2. Remind account – this is an instant messaging outreach. He’s able to get in contact with parents quickly via text messaging. The messages are limited to 140 characters. There were 132 accounts as of late January.
3. He is using the PTA’s Facebook page right now, but has also begun a Principal Criscone Facebook page. He is using the FB page to post as many as 15-20 photos each week from around the building for parents to see. “It’s an inside of look at what’s going on here, what your child is doing every day,” he said. The PTA page has 230 “friends” who see the photos in their timelines.
“Our goal is to get 100 percent on all of these forms of communication,” said Criscone. “We want to build a sense of community around the school. The best way to do that is to reach out to our parents as often as we can. It’s the best way to connect to our families and gives me a better understanding of our parents and how they view the school,” he said.
What is the role of a principal?
“Instructional leader” he says without missing a beat. That includes mentoring and working alongside staff to develop the best teaching methods. “My job is to work with staff to make sure they have access to the most effective teaching techniques. It’s an opportunity to put their plans into action. I will offer feedback and guidance all along the way. It’s all designed to help our teachers improve the program for children,” he said. “Everybody here wants to do a better job at what they do. I want to be a better principal. We can do this together.”
“We have some ups and downs with the test scores but I think there’s a lot of potential for improvement,” said Criscone. “I want to work with everyone to bring the best practices we possibly can into our classrooms.”
He said he’s especially interested in guided reading – in which students read materials at their grade level, instead of attempting to read a standard reader designed for their particular grade. “We want to develop a library that will include reading books from pre-reading to high school,” he said. “Teachers will be able to select the right level books for their students. We want each student to be at their ‘just right’ level when they are reading.”
He said he views state test scores with a grain of salt, especially since around 15 percent of Glen-Worden students chose not to take the test last year. “The scores are a moment in time. There are so many other ways that we can learn how well our students are doing or if they are struggling,” he said.
He also plans to begin a volunteer reading club for the staff that will serve as professional development focusing on teaching students to read.
He reads each report card before it goes home. “It really helps me to learn about our students and how they are doing here,” he said. “Some may not be good test takers but they excel in so many other ways. That usually comes out in the teachers’ comments on the report cards.”
Criscone, who was appointed to the $103,000 per year position as of Dec. 11, and his wife, Lisa, have been married for 21 years. They live in Charlton in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District. They have three children: Austin, age 15, a BHBL High School sophomore; Alexandra, 12, a seventh grader at O’Rourke Middle School; and Cozzy, 11, a fifth-grader at Charlton Heights Elementary School.
Criscone holds a master’s in educational administration from SUNY Albany and a bachelors in elementary education from the College of St. Rose.
He served as the principal at Mayfield Elementary from 2005-17. Prior to that, he taught grade 6 at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and grade 5 at Albany City Schools.