SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Michael Davino became Superintendent of Springfield Schools in April 2004. In 2017, he was named 2017 Union County Superintendent of the Year.
In commenting on the award the then Union County Affiliate President Dr. Danny Robertozzi, Chief Education Officer of Linden said, “Mike Davino is the consummate teacher and educational leader. He believes that the educational environment must be student-centered. He has created an environment in his district where children are more actively involved in their learning through the use of a technology one-to-one initiative.”
Much of what Robertozzi said then could have been said about Mike Davino now and throughout his career in education. Those ideas and qualities he highlighted were inspired and reinforced by the experiences of Michael Davino’s career.
In a discussion with the Superintendent, he said his mission is to make and keep the Springfield School System student-centric and to constantly improve the quality of education provided in Springfield.
He expects the students to stretch themselves. That includes completing a fairly rigorous curriculum at Dayton. Every student is expected to take four years of math and demonstrate writing proficiency. Some of the math courses are based on curriculum from MIT.
Students are given many opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities as well. For instance, there are 29 athletic teams and 75 percent of the students participate in a team sport.
SSEP is an example of an activity used to help students work together with the opportunity to create and achieve. But that opportunity brings with it a better understanding of the assessment process and what is required.
From the teachers, Davino expects them to be good technicians and to know their subject and be able to teach it well. Still, when he interviews teachers one of the main qualities he tries to assess is how if they are student-centric and able to make sure the students are able to get the optimal access to each course and activity.
His view of Springfield teachers is they are “…very dedicated and quality practitioners. They care about the well being of students and do their best to understand the differences and challenges kids bring to class. They try to better understand the complete student and come to a better understanding of other issues.”
When he thinks of qualities of a really good teacher, he often thinks of the quality of a good coach. He said a successful coach, “Accepts the differences of the players and then attempts to build a successful team from that base. Like a good coach, a good teacher does not ask students to do what they are not able to do, but does encourage them to stretch themselves and possibly see a student fail and learn from the experience.”
He expects Springfield’s teachers to teach equitably and use the assessment process as a tool to arrive at better end results. Through an education in the Springfield Schools, Davino hopes the students not only receive a good education but get a better understanding of their strengths and interests.
One of the ways he tries to help enhance the performance of teachers is by using the PARCC exams and the significant data the exam provides. He sees it as an ongoing assessment vehicle to assess the teaching and learning process. He expects and hopes that the use of this "better data" will lead to doing a better job of teaching the students.
He uses rankings and other data also as tools to better assess the system’s progress and quality of delivery. Recently, the Springfield School System was ranked #74 in New Jersey by niche.com, Dayton was ranked #29 by U.S. News & World Report and number 675 in the national rankings of more than 22,000 high schools.
To help attract more students, Davino focuses on educational excellence and trying to help families. One way this is done is by offering before and after school programs that run from breakfast to 6 p.m.
To help attract teachers, he helped initiate a teacher day care program which provides daycare to teachers at a reasonable cost. It is the only such program offered by a public school system in New Jersey and has contributed to Springfield having one of the best retention rates.
To support teachers, throughout his career, Davino has emphasized the use of technology. In Springfield, every student gets a MacBook starting in sixth grade and they use it through their senior year. It is theirs to use in school and at home. The students are expected to be fully computer literate by the end of eighth grade.
When he was a Principal in Staten Island, Davino was the first to introduce one to one laptop infrastructure to a public school program. It was a clam shell Apple notebook and the theme was “Leap to the Millenium”. Davino said he liked to think his attitude then was a Nike one – “Just Do It”.
He is consistent. The following is a paragraph from a March 31, 1998 New York Times article, “Davino has an awareness of what system is about. He wants the focus to be on what is best for the students. Giving the students access and helping them achieve. All students can take a course, but do they have access to the necessary tools, materials and teachers to learn during the course.” He tries to make sure that is the case in Springfield.
He reflected, “Did student take a course and get it? I want students to explore their capacity as a learner. Students have a right to fail. They should learn and better understand their limitations.”
A native of Brooklyn who got to play catch with Gil Hodges, Michael Davino has spent his career in education and thinking about the student first seems like a good foundation on which to build. He received his BSBA from St. Francis and his MA in Education from Michigan State University.
He was a special education teacher, assistant basketball coach and assistant football coach at Lafayette High School in New York City from 1977 to 1981. He became School Administrator at BASIS HIGH School from 1981 to September 1986. From September 1986 to August 1994, he was Assistant Principal of Port Richmond High School and then Principal from 1994 to August 1998. In August 1998, he took on the role of Chief School Administrator of Michael J. Petrides Education Complex and stayed there until he took on his current role. From May 2015 to June 2016, Davino served as President of the Board of Education of the Morris Union Jointure Board of Education.
In the first decade of his teaching career, he also coached and he feels that experience helped make a better educator and administrator. A third baseman and catcher for the championship baseball team of St. Francis, Davino coached at The College of Staten Island, Port Richmond HS and Lafayette HS. He also coached football at Wagner HS and Lafayette HS.
Superintendent Davino has improved the performance of the institutions he joined. When Davino took on Petrides, Chiara Coletti, a spokeswoman for Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew said, “This school has been plagued by dissension, political turmoil and a lack of mission.” His goal according to the March 31, 1998 New York Times article was to have to realize its original goal of “…becoming a progressive laboratory of learning for a diverse student body selected by a lottery.” He succeeded. He also succeeded at Port Richmond, which Newsweek placed on its list of “Best High Schools” in the country at the end of his tenure there.
Now, he continues to try and improve the Springfield Schools.