When the Highland Park School Board voted in August to hire Dr. Scott Taylor as the district’s new superintendent of schools, the board members probably had no idea that the district would be hiring someone with the philosophy and wisdom of a world-renowned bass trombone player.
Scott Taylor is no critically acclaimed musician. But his father David Taylor is. And there is one particular phrase that David Taylor used to describe his profession that is very analogous to the way Scott Taylor approaches his profession as an educator.
“Embracing the joy of the struggle,” said David Taylor to a reporter, when asked about the challenges and intense pressures of performing when you have the reputation of being the best bass trombonist in the world.
That was how the 46-year-old Scott Taylor responded, when asked about his strategy for handling the 24/7 pressures of being superintendent of schools, a position he assumed on Oct. 1, 2015. The pressure is exacerbated by the fact that he lives in Highland Park and his daughters are students in the Highland Park School District – one is a sophomore in the high school, the other is a seventh grader in the middle school.
Every encounter with a parent whether it be in his office or at the Stop and Shop, whether it be a positive comment or a negative one – is a “constructive, learning experience. I really mean that. I welcome all feedback, and I embrace every opportunity to learn, to improve, to be responsive to the needs of the community,” he said with the same enthusiasm he exhibited in his speech to the Board of Education when they offered him the job.
Residents of Highland Park for the past 20 years, he and his wife chose to live in Highland Park for its diversity, cosmopolitan environment, and its values, noted Scott Taylor who was raised in Tenafly, N.J. He has his “dream” job and “will do everything in my power” to create a learning environment for Highland Park’s students that enables them to achieve their dreams in life.
“My first few days in the school district as the new superintendent have been thrilling. I feel such a sense of ownership of the success of our school district. Highland Park’s kids are my kids now; this was what I thought when I stood in the Bartle hallway on day one, as I watched the kids walk in the school doors,” he said.
As far as his kids, he acknowledged that he probably embarrassed them when he introduced himself to the middle and high school students during their lunch periods in the cafeteria. “But I just have to be myself and at the same time be mindful that my kids need to have their own lives apart from their superintendent dad.”
“The biggest challenge for me right now is to overcome the learning curve about the school district’s culture. I may make a few mistakes in the first few weeks, as I work really hard to honor the things we do but also slowly “triage” the short-term problems we need to fix…. Our district is in a strong position to be world class, and I do intend to build on our strengths. But we have to address some core issues like the achievement gap among different populations of students.”
At the August 5 board meeting, he made a passionate statement on this topic:
“I recognize that one of my main charges is to act on helping lower-income students and families and students from all different walks of life to do better and be world class….I will put my heart and soul into making sure that I serve all children, regardless of who they are or whey they come [from], with everything I have. And I can promise you that I will be putting my heart and soul into making sure that I serve all of the children, regardless of who they are, with everything I have,” he said.
Scott Taylor received his doctorate from Columbia University and B.A. and Ed.M. from Rutgers University. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and at Montclair State University’s College of Education and Human Services. He has co-developed and implemented social-emotional learning programs in Kenilworth and is currently working with Dr. Maurice Elias to create the Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools. Dr. Elias is a professor in the Rutgers University Psychology Department and Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, and Academic Director of The Collaborative, Rutgers’ Center for Community-Based Research and Service.