Mains Names Common Core, Finances, Learning Gap As Biggest Problems

Tim Mains is already looking at the big picture.

As Mains prepares to take the reins of the Jamestown Public Schools District, he said he is up to the challenge of being in a leadership position during a financially unstable period for schools.

“I’m pretty selective about the schools and districts that I apply to,” he said. “One of the things that’s important to me is (being in) a district where there are kids that face some challenges. And the poverty level of Jamestown’s schools is, frankly, attractive to me.”

He added: “I wanted to work with kids who I don’t think are as likely, naturally, to get the same (opportunities) that everybody else does. And I’m a firm believer that education can, and should, make the difference in helping people step out of that environment and into a successful, and hopefully, middle-class trajectory. And I think education has, throughout the history of this country, been the path for success for a lot of people.”

When his term officially begins Aug. 1, Mains said he will look to address what he considers the three biggest problems facing JPS: adjusting to the Common Core Learning Standards by finding a means of personalizing education on an individual basis, doing so with limited finances, and closing the learning and performance gap within a diverse student population.

“You can deliver excellent education without a lot of money, but you can’t deliver it without any,” he said of the district’s financial situation. “Money is important, and it’s especially important if you want to run the kind of robust program that addresses all of the issues in developing the child.”

Mains said his background in finances will not only aid him in dealing with these issues, but was also be a positive influence in his selection by the JPS board of education. As an audit intern with Xerox Corporation’s department of internal audit and operational analysis, Mains said he learned an approach to both auditing internal operations as well as auditing finances. He was subsequently a 20-year member of the Rochester City Council, 12 years of which he spent as the council’s chair of finance.

“I know my way around a budget,” he said. “I’m very comfortable and familiar with multi-fund financing, multiple sources of revenue and managing that kind of system. So, if there’s a significant financial challenge, I happen to be a nice fit for that because of the background and experiences I have.”

Mains also suggested the development and implementation of a JPS-specific internal tracking system to show student progress in a more personal way than universal state testing-which he said is unrealistic. He said part of the blame for poor state test scores lies with unfair state and federal government legislation, as well as the expectation that special education and English as a second language students perform at the same level as their peers.

“One of the things that I would insist on is that we would have our own system of tracking that tells us people are making progress. I may not be able to meet the expectation of the state or feds if it takes my special education kids five years to get where my regular education kids can get in four,” he said. “Yes, we have to take the state tests, and we expect to be measured by that. But it would help us to have our own internal metrics to be able to show ourselves, and the community, that we’re making progress, and how (we’re doing it).”

According to Joe DiMaio, JPS board president, some adjustments to the current operating system are expected, but he is confident the board and the superintendent search committee have chosen the right candidate.

“This is going to be like any other change and adjustment in getting to know each other and work together,” said DiMaio. “I think (Mains’) experience truly came through to the board, and that’s one of the things he did so well in his interviews. I will say that the more I listen to Tim talk, I’m even more confirmed that we made the right decision.”