WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — As students return to the classroom, Williamsville administrators are focused on a fresh slate and the progress made over the past year.

Williamsville students got off to a delayed start in 2020 because there was no reopening plan.

We sat down one-on-one with the new Superintendent of Williamsville schools, Dr. Darren Brown-Hall, to talk about reuniting a once very divided district.

One year ago, scores of students flooded the parking lot outside Williamsville North.

They protested a switch from hybrid to fully remote learning, which was a temporary solution to the district’s crisis of not having enough teachers. Students, parents and even teachers felt they were left in the dark.

Dr. Brown-Hall watched the chaos unfold from the Buffalo Public Schools.

“I thought it was unfortunate because with a little bit more communication, collaboration – you can develop a successful plan,” he says.

Dr. Brown-Hall spent the past six years working under Dr. Kriner Cash as Chief of Staff. He has more than 20 years of experience in the field of education.

His decorated resume includes stints as interim and associate superintendent, principal, and many years as a teacher. He knows you can’t please everyone.

“Even when I did the reopening meetings in Buffalo, we kept reiterating that everyone will not be happy, but everyone will be heard.”

He points to that lack of communication as being one of the major breaking points last year. And this year, his focus is on the students.

“We’re going to get kids where they need to be, but what we want to focus on first is their social and emotional learning.”

He wants to keep students in the classroom, five days a week. And he plans to do this by following the state and county guidance.

“They partnered with the school superintendents to make sure it was very detailed and fit our needs, but Kathy Hochul put an exclamation point behind that, really helped to support statewide what we needed.”

Students will have access to Chromebooks and a learning plan, as well as contact with a teacher, if they need to stay home.

“So, if a student does have to quarantine, we have it set up so that they’re still getting some form of education.”

Lunch time is a concern, too.

“We’re working to make sure we have students at least three feet apart, if not more, in the cafeteria. And we’re working that so that our students feel safe in that environment and in every environment in our school buildings.”

But Dr. Brown-Hall sees his new position as an opportunity to mend something that was once broken. He’s working to rebuild trust.

“I’ve already met with the teachers, the teachers union and a small group of teachers to hear from them, and we’ll have additional meetings set up in the future just so that we have that open communication. Because teachers, they’re the professionals. They’re the boots on the ground. We want to make sure they feel respected, valued and heard because what they’re doing in the classroom is the most important.”

Ready 4 School