BATH TWP.: Neil Roseberry usually vets candidates applying for a six-figure superintendent position. Those articulate folks have two or more college degrees and are well versed in the art of the interview.
Last week, however, Roseberry — a former school principal now employed with the Cuyahoga County Educational Service Center — interviewed adolescents who weren’t in search of a job.
Roseberry, board of education members, the chiefs of the Bath police and fire departments and others with a vested interest in education conducted exit interviews for 220 Revere Middle School students as they prepared to make the leap to high school.
“I’ve not seen this done in any other school,” said Roseberry between interviews in the library on Thursday.
Over the course of a week for each of the past three years, eighth-graders have been summoned in groups of five or six to the library — where successful business people, parents and others await them at numbered tables. The students, who spend about two to three hours each preparing a PowerPoint presentation, grab an iPad, load their presentation and sit down for the first of many interviews in their lives.
The program is multi- purposed. While teachers and administrators review responses to hone the education experience delivered in the middle school, the whole process opens the door to the public and shapes communication skills.
It allows community members — who during the interview take inventory of each student’s interests, dreams and sometimes quirky hobbies — to give the school feedback on what’s working and what needs improvement.
It also provides a safe environment for young teenagers to shake off first-interview jitters.
But the most beneficial component of the program comes at the end, when information gathered from each interview is handed to a high school counselor who now knows a little bit about students he or she has yet to meet.
The information passed along to the high school transcends academic performance, attendance records or disciplinary history. It’s information that these well-prepared interviewees pour into their presentations.
Well-dressed and poised in a chair across the table from Roseberry during a half-hour session, Serena Juchnowski stared confidently into her interviewer’s eyes. Her knees didn’t bounce and her fingers didn’t fidget like most of the kids in the room.
Roseberry and Juchnowski, 14, immediately struck up a conversation that didn’t just break the ice, it melted away any tension between them.
“I love Tommy James and the Shondells,” Juchnowski, an atypically nostalgic eighth-grader, said when prompted about her personal interests, which include collecting postcards and coins.
“Oh my goodness, you’re really going back,” said Roseberry, who talked at great length to an eighth-grade girl about I Dream of Jeannie and other shows he enjoyed growing up.
“It’s kind of hard for me to believe that people don’t love the old stuff,” Juchnowski said.
Knowing that Juchnowski is an avid fan of syndicated television shows and outdated bands is a useful piece of information for a high school teacher looking to make a connection with a teenager in her formative years.
But as the conversation progressed, Roseberry stumbled on something that could be invaluable.
“I am a perfectionist” said Juchnowski, who molds miniature models of food — pastries, cakes, anything — out of clay. She diligently paints her replicas sometimes five times before she’s satisfied with the shading.
It’s a time-consuming process that translates to her study and test-taking habits.
“I don’t like getting answers wrong,” she later admitted in the interview. “I think it’s both a gift and a curse. You can try to get something perfect, but there are other things in life.”
“That’s a great answer,” said Roseberry, admiring the young girl’s rationale and jotting down a valuable note.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.