After a grueling months-long search, Shoreham-Wading River school district has finally found a new superintendent.
Gerard Poole, who has served as Freeport School District’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction since 2013, was officially appointed at the top of Shoreham-Wading River’s April 18 board of education meeting.
He will be the district’s full-time superintendent, taking over for interim Neil Lederer, effective July 1.
An educator for more than 20 years, Poole, 50, started out as an elementary school teacher and instructional coach in the Riverhead Central School District and eventually landed an administrative position in Valley Stream school district before transferring to Freeport.
“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to have the chance to collaborate and build upon the successes of the school district.”
Although Poole has been a lifelong resident of Mattituck, where he lives with his wife and two sons, he said it was an easy decision to apply for the Shoreham-Wading River position. He said he believes it’s one of the best districts on Long Island.
“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to have the chance to collaborate and build upon the successes of the school district,” Poole said during the meeting. “I’ve met many parents, teachers and administrators and [got] a warm welcome and sense of community from everyone.”
When he was interviewed back in February, he said it was clear he and the district saw eye to eye.
“I thought it was a great fit,” Poole said.
There are some key things for every superintendent to be successful, he explained.
“[The most important thing] is to be really open, accessible, forthright, collaborate with the community — to really find out exactly where we want to head, figure out the programs and what the student needs to really reach their full potential,” he said. “It’s not just really important for me to look at documents or student outcomes, but to really listen and hear from parents, staff and students, and work with the board to continue to come up with the great work that’s already in place here in Shoreham.”
Poole’s outlook falls directly in line with what parents in the district asked for.
Bob Freier and Joann Kaplan of District Wise Search Consultants were hired by the district in November not just to find a new superintendent, but to gauge the community on what kind of characteristics they should seek in finding a permanent replacement for previous full-time superintendent Steven Cohen, who retired last summer after holding the position for five years.
Kaplan said the group interviewed more than 30 prospective candidates and narrowed it down to Poole.
“One of the things that stood out for me was how do we become one of those special districts on Long Island? One way is to pick a leader that has a vision. For me, he had that vision.”
“It was very important for the superintendent to be a face in the community and be a part of the fiber of the school — not just somebody in the office but somebody who would become a part of the culture of Shoreham-Wading River,” Kaplan said. “We actively recruited [Poole] because he’s brought so many incredible things to Freeport. He met our goals and excelled.”
During his four years in Freeport, Poole focused on providing world-class opportunities for his students, believing that all of them should receive core foundational skills before graduating.
He partnered with local universities to implement a challenging curriculum to prepare students for college, which included elementary-level introduction to technology, advanced science research and expanding college credit opportunities.
Board president John Zukowski said Poole stood out above the rest of the candidates.
“He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the district — he knows the culture here,” Zukowski said. “He has a lot of enthusiasm and incredible ideas. One of the things that stood out for me was how do we become one of those special districts on Long Island? One way is to pick a leader that has a vision. For me, he had that vision.”
Zukowski ended the meeting by referring to Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance artist, who for three straight years slaved away at a massive piece of marble deemed too defective by other sculptors to create something out of. Michelangelo eventually sculpted his renowned David statue out of that rock. When asked how he did it, the artist said, “I see the angels in the marble, and I carve until I set them free.”
“On those days in this job when you feel you are just pounding rocks,” Zukowski said to Poole, “I’m going to ask you to keep carving because we definitely have angels here that you can set free. On behalf of the board, welcome aboard … we look forward to working with you so we can develop the potential of every kid in this district.”