Building connections: Old Colony superintendent looks to increase student opportunitiesHe's also holding out for a call from Ellen DeGeneres
Superintendent Aaron Polansky is still the new guy at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School, but he’s already making an impression, nationwide.
Polansky and a handful of students recently filmed a snow day cancellation in which the superintendent sang revised lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Instead of “broken hallelujah” he belted out “I guess that we should probably cancel school, yeah.”
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” said Polansky. “We could not stop laughing. The kids had a blast with it.”
After announcing the video on Twitter and emailing the link to Old Colony families, he got calls from ABC News and Fox News and the video was featured on sites from CBS Boston to balmy Palm Beach, Florida. He'd still love one more high profile interview though: “We were really hoping that maybe Ellen DeGeneres would call.”
Engaging with the students, even on something goofy like a YouTube video, is something the energetic father of six makes a priority.
“If there's a kid that doesn't love school, my job is to help them love school,” he said.
Polansky’s number one goal is to give students the tools to pursue their passions, and if they don’t know what they love, to help them discover it.
A variety of jobs in everything from coaching to landscape design lead the Natick native to education. Before coming to Old Colony in November, Polansky served as the assistant principal and then principal of Bristol County Agricultural High School.
“It was probably the most rewarding eight or nine years of my professional life,” he said. “I feel lucky to have landed in the different places I have.”
Polansky, a Raynham resident, has jumped into Old Colony culture with both feet and said he loves the work that’s already happening at the school.
People often have a narrow view of vocational schools, but Old Colony kids go on to pursue college, including the Ivy League, as well as jumping into the working world.
What Polansky wants to do is increase students’ options even more.
“I feel that I have a big responsibility to build ties in the community, make sure we're building industry partnerships, make sure our kids have avenues to excel at the college level,” he said.
One recent open door is a partnership with Bristol Community College for students in the CAD (computer aided design) program. Kids will get to take free classes, potentially earning up to 12 credits before they graduate.
Polansky also wants to develop a program through which students can earn an associate's degree in business. That would allow them to either begin college ahead of the game or give them a better foundation as they enter the job market.
Beyond current students, Polansky has plans in the works to increase Old Colony’s reach in the community. In July the school will offer the 2017 Summer Discovery, a new, week-long program for grades five through eight. (Registration is now open at oldcolony.us)
Old Colony teachers and students will lead courses on baking and pastry arts, sports, cosmetology, forensic science and more, for $100 to $250. The goal is to give kids an introduction to the school’s offerings.
“When you're not familiar with something it's very difficult to know if it's right for you,” Polansky said. “It provides a mechanism for something creative, something inspiring, a place where these kids can connect and it'll create a level of familiarity.”
Ultimately, Polansky’s goal is to increase the schools exposure and to increase students’ opportunities.
“If kids can leave with some skill sets that allow them to leverage their value in a working world, I think we're in a really good place.”
Of course, a call from Ellen wouldn't hurt.