Anibal Soler, Jr. is named SCSD Superintendent of Schools
Posted on 07/08/2021
Anibal Soler Jr is named superintendent of school

The Schenectady City School District Board of Education announced at a press conference on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, that Mr. Anibal Soler, Jr. has been selected to serve as the Schenectady City School District Superintendent of Schools, effective July 19, 2021. 

Soler, who has 21 years of experience in the field of education, twelve as an administrator, is currently the superintendent of schools for the Batavia City School District, a small high-needs city school district in Genesee County.  

“It is a true privilege and honor to be selected as the next superintendent,” said Soler.  “I know there is much to celebrate and build upon within the district.  I know of the resilience and passion of Schenectady teachers, staff and administration who worked through a global pandemic to support the children of Schenectady. I am looking forward to working with all of you.”  

 “The board’s goal is to have a strong and capable leader in place to guide the district forward,” said John Foley, who is exiting the board but served as president of the board of education throughout the superintendent search and selection process.  “We listened carefully to the comments and concerns of the community and staff.  I believe that Anibal Soler possesses the characteristics of the leader we are all seeking.”  Foley said he looks forward to watching the district progress and the students flourish under Soler’s direction.

During Soler’s tenure as superintendent, he launched a community schools initiative with a focus on equity, opportunity, and family.  He helped secure the district’s first ever My Brother’s Keeper Family and Community Engagement Grant.  He facilitated the adoption of a board policy and regulation on Equity, Inclusivity and Diversity in Education, and he helped successfully lead the district through multiple budget processes with no tax increase.  Soler also has successfully negotiated bargaining agreements.

Soler led the development and implementation of a strong reopening plan in the Fall of 2020 that did not result in any staff cuts or layoffs.  Under his direction, the district prioritized the needs of at-risk students by keeping schools open and providing in-person instruction for English language learners (ELL), special education and at-risk students.  All of the district’s schools opened for in-person learning for all students throughout the last ten weeks of the school year.

Prior to becoming a superintendent, Soler served as an associate superintendent of strategic alignment and innovation for Buffalo Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the state with 33,000 students and more than 60 schools.  He led the Strong Community Schools, a school improvement strategy, encompassing 21 schools and approximately 11,000 students.  He has successfully moved schools that were designated as “struggling” or “failing” to schools in “good standing.”  Soler has a strong history of working with community, city and county organizations and is committed to developing partnerships with the Schenectady community. 

Soler also worked as a high school principal in the Rochester City School District from 2009-2016 and an elementary school principal from 2016-2018.  He began his educational career in 2000 as an art teacher and spent some time as an instructional technology teacher in the Rochester City School District.

Soler said that he is excited to get to work in Schenectady.  “I know there is a significant amount of work ahead,” he said. ” It is my goal to unite our district and to build upon our current successes but also to address the areas that need to be improved upon to move forward.”   

Under his leadership, Soler said that he wants Schenectady to be known for providing students high quality educational experiences, boundless opportunities, dynamic and equitable supports while remaining fiscally sound and responsible. He also stressed the importance of ensuring that all students and members of the district have a voice and feel represented. 

Soler was selected as the successful candidate after a 14-month process that was impacted by COVID-19.   The board first turned to the school community in Spring 2020 to learn what leadership qualities and priorities are important.  Between May 15 and June 15 of 2020, 299 stakeholders participated in a survey.  In early June, seven community focus groups were held to solicit input from community leaders, students, parents, staff members, teachers and administrators.  Foley stressed that the community input, including information provided through the survey, focus groups, board of education meetings and feedback received by individual board members was used to develop the marketing and search materials as well as serve as an anchor throughout the vetting and interview process.  Additionally, in January 2021, twenty-three community leaders, a group of students and an internal group of stakeholders participated in candidate interviews.  Foley said the insight and information gathered from stakeholder participation in those interviews was also considered in all decisions moving forward, including the selection of finalists and the successful candidate.

In April 2021, after an unsuccessful negotiation with a candidate and then the announcement that interim superintendent Aaron Bochniak would be leaving to take a position outside the district, immediately following the 2020-2021 school year, the board launched an aggressive confidential search for an interim superintendent.  Throughout the spring of this year, the board of education interviewed several candidates. 

“It was an impressive pool of candidates,” said Foley.  “There were many highly qualified candidates.  Any one of them would have made an excellent interim or permanent superintendent.”

Foley said that Soler stood out.  “I am confident that he is the right leader for Schenectady,” he added.

School board member Bernice Rivera said that while the board had consistently been working on the search, it was difficult during the peak of COVID-19 for many reasons.  She noted that, as Schenectady was looking for an experienced leader in urban education, a sitting superintendent was less likely to look for employment and leave their district in the middle of a pandemic.  

Rivera and Foley both said that there was an increasing “sense of urgency” with the interim superintendent leaving and the number of vacant leadership positions in the district, including key top-level positions.   “We found it an opportune time to start the new year with a strong leader,” said Rivera.

Board member Cathy Lewis said that after the pandemic accelerated and with rapidly changing conditions, the board had to decide how to proceed with the search and how to best serve the students and staff of the Schenectady community.  Lewis said the board learned together through the experience with the first search.  They took the feedback and comments from stakeholders and community leaders who participated in that process and used it to inform decisions moving forward.   “We feel confident that we found the best candidate in Anibal Soler,” said Lewis.

Board members agree that Soler exemplifies the qualities that were identified by the community.  He is an advocate for equity and recognizes that a strong and rigorous curriculum is vital to student success.  Soler also drafted a plan that aligns with the district’s values, mission and vision and offers an innovative and collaborative approach to addressing challenges.

“He is passionate about education and working with students who have experienced challenges, and he is knowledgeable about the nuances of urban education,” said Rivera, specifically noting funding issues, graduation rates, the importance of curriculum development, strong leadership in schools and he has experience and success collaborating with students, families and the community.  “He brings many assets,” she said.  “And he is bilingual.”

“We need someone at the helm now who can assemble a team they can lead to do the work of the district,” said Foley.  “As a board, we agree Anibal is this person.”  

“I’m very happy to welcome Anibal Soler to Schenectady as our next Superintendent of Schools,” said Ann Reilly, board of education member.  “I’m delighted that an experienced urban educator committed to equity will be joining us and look forward to working with Anibal to improve outcomes.”  

“The process leading here may not have been what everyone wanted, but I believe that Mr. Soler is,” said Erica Brockmyer, newly elected board member, who did have an opportunity to meet and talk with Soler.  “What excited me the most during our discussion was his realistic actionable ideas that fell in line with the needs and vision of the district,” she said.  “I believe that he is what our district wants and needs in a leader that will propel us forward.” 

Andy Chestnut, outgoing board member who served throughout the superintendent search process also noted that Soler has many fine qualities.  Like Rivera, he highlighted that the new superintendent is bilingual.  “This will benefit our schools and the community on two levels,” said Chestnut.  “He will be able to discuss and learn from the concerns of many of our non-English-speaking families and he will have a better understanding of how it feels for families to live and send their kids to school in an environment where the ‘common language’ presents a barrier.”  Chestnut said both of these will support the essential work of rebuilding trust between the district and community, as he works to implement the district commitment to equity in alignment with its vision and mission.

“I’m excited that we found a superintendent who has the qualifications requested by the community as well as the experience as a sitting superintendent,” said Princella Learry, board of education member.

“We are pleased to welcome Anibal Soler to the Schenectady City School District,” said Lewis. “We believe that his vision, experience, and ability make him the right leader for our district.”

“Thank you to the board of education for their confidence in me,” said Soler.  “I recognize the long journey the board has endured to find the right leader for Schenectady.  I know the process has been difficult and at times unpredictable.”  He added that it is time for all to move forward together with one common focus, “student success.”

Soler earned a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Daemen College, Master of Science in Educational Technology from Nazareth College and Master of Science in Educational Administration from St. John Fisher College.  He is currently working on completing his Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Manhattanville College.

Soler is married and has four children. 

 

 

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