The Patchogue-Medford school board has extended the contract of Superintendent Michael Hynes by five years

“We are thrilled beyond belief,” said board president Anthony O’Brien.

The measure was approved unanimously by the school board Monday night.

“What’s great about Dr. Hynes is that his priority is the children, and in Patchogue-Medford we have seven school board members and that’s our priority as well,” O’Brien said. “And he believes in teaching to the whole child, which is a philosophy we stand behind.”

Asked for what that means, exactly, O’Brien said it’s understanding that each child is an individual and must be treated as such, in order to best address the student’s needs within the school system.

“It’s not a testing and numbers game,” he said. “You have to find out what works for each child.”

Dr. Hynes was entering into the third and final year of his original contract.

His salary is $231,750 for 2016-17, as it would have been under the previous contract. The salary will remain at that level until the contract expires in 2021, Dr. Hynes said.

“The most important thing for me to take a very large, diverse district and almost make it seem like a very small district,” Dr. Hynes said.

“The first two years were really about building trust and relationships,” he added. “And along with that, starting to articulate and outline what the future for this school district will look like through input — not just my ideas but the school communities’ ideas as well.”

During his time with Patchogue-Medford, Dr. Hynes has emerged as a leading voice against the Regents Reform Agenda and what’s come to be referred to as high-stakes testing under the Common Core State Standards, through which test scores are tied to teacher evaluations.

During that time, the percentage of students being opted out of state tests has also been high in the district, with about 70 percent of eligible Pat-Med students not sitting for tests in 2016.

O’Brien said he was not concerned about the potential for punitive action being taken against the district — such as reductions in state aid — because of those high opt-out numbers.

“I’ve lived in Patchogue-Medford my entire life,” O’Brien said. “We are helping to right a wrong and we stand with our superintendent, and the community is as well.

“Patchogue-Medford is a very old and a very close community, and we are very vocal,” he continued. “And when an injustice is done, we stand together. I’m not concerned at all.”

“I don’t think anything we’re looking to do here is so outlandish or out of the ordinary,” Dr. Hynes said. “What we’re looking to do is go back to the basics of what it means to fundamentally educate a child. As a state and a nation we’ve been moving away from that.”

Dr. Hynes said he’s not surprised that particular message has been embraced throughout the community, as well as beyond the borders of the Patchogue-Medford School District.

“I think it’s refreshing for people to hear that we want kids to actually enjoy and make the school experience relevant to all of them,” he said. “That’s really what we’re trying to do.”

To that end, Dr. Hynes said the district is doubling recess time at the elementary level for 2016-17, and adding yoga and meditation time for all grades.

In addition, structured and unstructured play will be introduced in grades K-2.

Related: Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain

There will also be more project-based learning throughout the classrooms, he said.

“That means working with teams, collaborating, sharing ideas and then reporting out, orally, what was learned,” he said. “And this isn’t just in one content area, but inter-disciplinary, where there are connections between math, science, social studies and English.

“Because that’s the way the real world is.”

Photo: Superintendent Michael Hynes in April of 2015. (District courtesy photo)