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Superintendent

Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano addresses the Class of 2018 during graduation June 22. File photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson School District will be looking for new leadership following the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Paul Casciano announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year, effective July 1, 2019, during an Aug. 29 board of education meeting.

“As we had discussed with the board in the fall of 2016, I was willing to complete the 2016-17 school year and two additional school years as your superintendent,” Casciano wrote in a letter dated Aug. 28, which was released publicly by the district in the aftermath of the meeting.

Casciano was hired during the summer of 2016, initially under an interim designation that was removed in Dec. 2016, effectively making him the permanent superintendent. Casciano took over for outgoing Ken Bossert, who transferred to a position leading the Elwood school district.

“Having the opportunity to serve the Port Jefferson School District is truly an honor and privilege of which I am extremely grateful,”Casciano wrote. “We have amazing students who attend our schools and the sky is the limit to what they can and will achieve. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far during my tenure.”

BOE President Kathleen Brennan said the board regretfully accepted Casciano’s resignation.

“I would like to thank Dr. Casciano for his service to Port Jefferson,” she said. “I had the opportunity to speak to the staff at the opening of school and shared with them that Dr. Casciano did not come looking for Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson went looking for Dr. Casciano when we were looking for an interim superintendent and he agreed to stay beyond the one-year interim that we had initially discussed. In fact, the board of education, the night he was interviewed, asked when he left the room, ‘Can he stay?’”

Casciano, a Stony Brook resident, had previously served as superintendent in William Floyd school district. He retired from the position about a year prior to starting with Port Jeff on an interim basis.

The board will be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the next steps to search for a new superintendent of schools, according to a district press release. Casciano said in his letter he is willing to assist in the transition to a new superintendent’s tenure beyond his set retirement date.

“When Dr. Casciano was interviewed he said, ‘I have two speeds, go and stop, and what you see is what you get — I’m not going to come in and tread water,’” Brennan said. “The board was very happy to hear that and very happy that he didn’t tread water … So on behalf of the board, I would like to thank Dr. Casciano for his service to Port Jefferson.”

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Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

With the yearly rise in the number of Mount Sinai students who refuse to take standardized tests — in relation to a statewide movement against Common Core — district administrators have rolled out new ways to assess and strengthen learning skills. So far, three months into the school year, school leaders believe students are reaping the benefits.

“We’re doing things differently than we’ve ever done before,” said Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal during a Nov. 15 board of education meeting.

Brosdal said the district has implemented new literacy-based assessment programs to fill a great need to measure the academic abilities of elementary and middle school students. Since the 2012-13 school year, more and more students have opted out of the state’s English Language Arts and Math standardized exams, which are administered to evaluate those in grades three through eight, Brosdal said.

“I don’t necessarily agree with Common Core … but it’s important for kids to take the test because you get information out of them. What do we do to inform us about the kids who don’t take it? Or get more information on those that do?”

— Gordon Brosdal

“We went from a participation rate of 97 percent down to 40 percent,” he said, pointing to the uproar among members of the community over the adoption of Common Core as the main cause. Those against the tests criticize the pressures it places on students and teachers. “I don’t necessarily agree with Common Core … but it’s important for kids to take the test because you get information out of them. What do we do to inform us about the kids who don’t take it? Or get more information on those that do?”

Joined by district principals — Peter Pramataris of the middle school and Rob Catlin of the elementary school — Brosdal showcased the growth of students at both schools as a result of the newly implemented programs. Fountas & Pinnell, which started in September, gauges the reading and comprehension level of individual
students by having them read a book with their teacher three times a year. It’s a more relaxed form of testing that serves to measure a student’s progression throughout the year while also encouraging them to find the fun in reading.

When the student demonstrates overall reading ability and understanding of the text, he or she graduates to more challenging books. Books are organized into letter-based levels, “A” books being Dr. Suess and “Z” books being “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

In a demonstration of the district’s Columbia Writing Program, which was put in place three years ago as a
result of weakness in the subject across the elementary and middle schools, Pramataris compared a middle school student’s writing assignment from the second day of school to a writing assignment in October. As he pointed out, the second assignment was lengthier, and the student’s narrative skills were punchier.

Academic Intervention Services — help offered by the state at schools to help  students achieve the learning standards, monitors and helps those falling behind.

“We see weaknesses and we want to make them stronger and really work at it,” Brosdal said. “I believe our students have become better writers and readers and they will only get stronger. We’re going to see a lot of good things.”

Catlin, who was hired as principal of the elementary school over the summer, came to the district already well versed in the new programs and was determined to help initiate them.

“We’ve really developed a district wide action plan this year,” Catlin said. “The absence of meaningful assessment results required us to have meaningful in-house assessments. We can’t be in the dark about how a majority of our kids, who don’t take the state tests, are doing.”

The absence of meaningful assessment results required us to have meaningful in-house assessments. We can’t be in the dark about how a majority of our kids, who don’t take the state tests, are doing.”

— Rob Catlin

Catlin said in the first Fountas & Pinnell session performed by the district, teachers observed that 45 percent of students in lower elementary grades (first and second) performed at or above grade level. In the upper elementary grades (third and fourth) 22 percent of students performed at or above grade level.

“There are many reasons for this,” Catlin said. “As they say, data doesn’t answer questions, it just opens up questions and makes you think more about why things are happening.”

He explained that while students at these grade levels may have understood the books they were reading, they aren’t used to answering the high level of questions about it, and aren’t engaging in enough independent reading to practice these skills.

Now that teachers have that information about the student, they will be able to directly address their needs before the second session, which takes place in January. In the meantime, the elementary school librarian has started leveling books in the library and Scholastic money from the PTO, totaling $4,000, is being used to purchase more leveled books, Catlin said.

“Now we can use resources to really target their needs,” Catlin said. “And we’re able to see progress quickly, which is nice, and not have to wait until April when the state tests are taken.”

Deena Timo, executive director of educational services and another integral player in bringing the programs to the school, said of the state tests: “We’ve always viewed them as just a little snapshot in time and not the be all, end all to assess a child. It’s that, taken with a lot of things done in the classroom throughout the year that give you a good picture of a student.”

While Brosdal said he wishes more students took the Common Core tests in order to prepare for Regents exams once they reach the high school, he agreed.

“When you have to push the state stuff aside you ask, ‘Now what do we have to measure our kids?’” Brosdal said. “In the classroom, are we seeing growth? Are they engaged now where they weren’t earlier in the year? We are reacting to what we’re seeing, trying to put better things in place. I believe we’re heading in the right direction.”

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

A new, broader homework policy drafted by the Shoreham-Wading River board of education opened up a dialogue last month between parents and administrators over the best approach to after school assignments throughout the district.

Varying consequences for students who don’t do their homework and an overabundance of assignments over school holidays were main topics of discussion during Shoreham’s Oct. 24 board meeting, in which community members weighed in on a planned revision to the district’s current policy.

In response to a curriculum survey sent out by the district over the summer, parents requested that its guidelines for homework be expanded. While the original policy is merely two sentences on the educational validity of homework, the new two-page proposal aims to better accommodate for individual students and incorporates recognized best practices in the development of assignments.

New homework guidelines could include stricter
penalties, less work on vacations. Stock photo

“The process has certainly put a lens on homework,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Feedback from parents in the survey was a little mixed — the underlying theme was that homework is important but there should be consistencies across grade levels and considerations for home life. We tried to craft something that empowered the buildings to make practices come to life that make sense for students and families.” 

The newly drafted guidelines, titled Policy 8440, encourage teachers to consider students’ time constraints when assigning homework, which should be “appropriate to students’ age” and shouldn’t “take away too much time away from other home activities.”

“Homework should foster positive attitudes toward school and self, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as in school,” the draft policy states.

While it addresses that students should be accountable for all assignments, there are no strict consequences in place for when homework isn’t done, which prompted some parents to voice their concerns.

“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children,” said Jeannine Smith, a Shoreham parent with children in Wading River School and Miller Avenue School.

As an educator in an outside district, Smith supported the concept of taking recess away from students in the elementary and middle school who consistently don’t hand homework in.

“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children.”

— Jeannine Smith

“It’s the teacher’s job to make sure children are prepared in the future and if homework’s not important in the classroom, children get the message that there is no consequence,” she said.

Shoreham resident Erin Saunders-Morano agreed, saying she believes homework is ultimately the student’s responsibility and shouldn’t be seen as something that falls on the parents.

“As we get older, if you don’t do your job, there are consequences,” Morano said. “I think we should be raising the bar for our students, not lowering it. If students want recess, they should make sure they do their homework.”

But Alisa McMorris, a member of the district’s PTA council, protested the idea, saying students who are working hard all day deserve a break. She also pointed out that difficult and time-consuming projects should not be assigned over vacations.

“I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had projects due the day we get back from Christmas break and it makes me crazy,” McMorris said. “Our Christmas breaks now are doing these projects. Vacation is vacation.”

Michelle Gallucci, a Wading River resident and an English teacher at Smithtown High School East, commended the board for drafting a policy that gives teachers academic freedom based on the students they have in the classroom. She equated the importance of homework to sports practice.

“You can’t take a math class at 9 a.m. on a Monday and not do it again until 9 a.m. the next day,” she said. “You have to practice those skills and get better because your brain is a muscle. Just as students practice for hours after school to get ready for games, students also need intellectual practice.”

Elwood Middle School will get a new roof with the passage of Proposition 1 by voters. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Elwood school district officials will put a total of $38 million in capital bond projects before residents for approval this November.

Elwood’s board of education voted unanimously Sept. 28  to put forth two propositions for a vote next month. Proposition 1 includes $34.5 million for health and safety improvements across the district. A $3.65 million Proposition 2 would go toward enhancement of the athletic fields.

“Over the course of the next two months, I look forward to as much community participation as possible,” Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said. “We want to provide as much information as possible to residents so that they can make an informed decision at the polls on Nov. 28.”

The first proposition focuses on major projects in each of the four school buildings — Harley Avenue Elementary, Boyd Intermediate School, Elwood Middle School and John H. Glenn High School — including replacing the roofs to fix existing leaks and flooding issues, fixing sidewalk and pavement cracks, renovating cafeterias and auditoriums and including air conditioning in some spaces.

The second, if passed, would allow for enhancements to the district’s athletic facilities including a concession stand for the high school fields with an outdoor bathroom, a synthetic turf field, sidewalks to make the fields compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a new press box and a scoreboard for the varsity baseball field.

The major issue of debate at the Sept. 28 board meeting came down to prioritizing items on the district’s list of alternative projects. The list is a compilation of recommended building renovations and upgrades that may be possible to complete if Proposition 1 is approved by voters, and there are additional funds remaining after the outlined construction is completed.

“The alternative list are all projects that were removed from Proposition 1 in order to bring it down to a level where taxpayers could be comfortable with [the tax increase],” Bossert said.

The district’s original building repair survey had recommended approximately $60 million in needed construction and safety upgrades to the buildings.

Some of the alternative projects the district will put forth to the state which aren’t included in either proposition include a new districtwide satellite clock system for $105,000; a backup generator for the computer systems at $125,000; air conditioning for office areas at $710,000; replacement of heating and ventilation units for $110,000; wall paneling at $170,000; locker room renovations for $625,000 and landscaping a playground for $40,000.

“I would like to see some things that the students will be impacted by moved up to the top of the list,” trustee Heather Mammolito said. “In an ideal world, I’d like to see locker room renovations bumped up and some others, like wall panelling, lower on the list.”

Mammolito’s comments were echoed and supported by other members of the board, who reached an agreement to re-evaluate it before posting it for district residents.

The superintendent stressed that the alternative projects list is highly flexible and “not set in stone”, as the renovations would only be possible if there are surplus funds and, which ones move forward would be dependent on how much of the bond is left.

“Often as is the case with construction, there are unanticipated costs,” Bossert said. “We may have to add projects to our list.”

The alternative projects list must be compiled as it has to be approved by voters and sent to the state, according to Bossert, so that if there are funds leftover after major projects are completed the district would have authorization to do work on these projects.

School officials have plans to host walk-through tours at each of the school buildings prior to the November vote so residents can evaluate first-hand the proposed projects. The dates have yet to be announced.

The Nov. 28 vote will be held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m at the district’s administrative offices. This a change from the district’s traditional 2 to 10 p.m. polling hours, approved by the school board, in order to offer more hours for working taxpayers to vote and more aligned with general election polling hours.

Huntington High School. File Photo

Huntington High School found itself in the crosshairs of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) latest initiative that takes aims at cracking down on Long Island gang activity, much to the surprise of school officials.

Cuomo announced Sept. 13 his plan for deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, which will deploy state troopers to monitor gang activity and recruitment in the alleged top 10 “high-risk” Suffolk County schools. Huntington High School made the list.

The prevention unit will immediately assign 10 state troopers, one to each of the 10 schools in the six targeted districts which includes Brentwood, Central Islip, Huntington, Longwood, South Country Central and Wyandanch. Cuomo said these districts were chosen as they were identified by local law enforcement as having the highest concentration of gang violence and vulnerability to recruitment efforts.

In addition, the prevention unit will coordinate with the Suffolk County Police Department to launch an “Educate the Educators” program, aimed at helping teachers and faculty recognize early warning signs of gang involvement.

“Our number one job in government is to keep all New Yorkers, and especially our children, safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By partnering with our schools, we will be better prepared to stop gang activity before it starts and end this heinous cycle of violence. This is just one step in our ongoing efforts to eradicate the threat of MS-13 and ensure that every student remains on a path to a bright future.”

Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said he was “deeply disappointed” by the manner in which the governor presented the initiative. Polansky made clear to residents it was not a coordinated effort with the district in a letter sent to the community dated Sept. 14.

“Much of our dismay stems from the fact that at no point were we approached,” Polansky said in a statement. “At no point did any state official or otherwise reach out and ask what we need or don’t need. At no point did anyone request a visit or invite a conversation of any sort. At no point have we received even fragments of information about this proposal.”

Upon questioning state officials about Cuomo’s proposed plan, Polansky said the district received a thorough apology and admission that the “ball was dropped.”

The superintendent stated in his Sept. 14 letter that Cuomo had mischaracterized the Huntington school district and that his words, “frankly, offend all members of the school community.”

“In fact, numerous students were the first to point this out first thing in the morning,” Polansky wrote. “Unfortunately, we continue to witness education and politics rarely prove to be a productive combination.”

As of Sept. 19, a state trooper has not been assigned to Huntington High School as part of the prevention unit, according to school spokesman Jim Hoops. The district does have a school resource officer assigned from Suffolk County police since 2004 to monitor issues that arise, which is shared with the South Huntington school district.

Shoreham-Wading River’s superintendent, Gerard Poole, speaks during an April 18 board of education meeting. Photo by Kevin Redding

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.”

—Gerard Poole

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.”

—John Zukowski

“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.”

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo
Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen. File photo.

In two years, Superintendent Timothy Eagen has become the king of Kings Park’s school district.

Under his leadership, the district has created robotics clubs and educational programs for children from kindergarten up, started work on about $41 million in improvements to the district’s facilities, brought back old clubs and worked tirelessly to make sure the level of education students receive is up to par.

For these reasons, Times Beacon Record News Media has selected Eagen as a Person of the Year for 2016.

A North Shore native, the superintendent grew up in South Huntington and graduated from Walt Whitman High School. His undergraduate degree from Alfred University was in ceramic engineering, a specific education he said still helps him today.

“As an engineer you’re trained to solve problems, and that is essentially what I do for a living,” he said. “It’s not necessarily science problems, but whatever the problem of the day might be.”

He said after college he switched over to the “family business” of education. His mother and father are both retired teachers, and his sister is a high school English teacher.

Eagen worked in the South Huntington school district for 15 years, starting as a substitute teacher and working his way to assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

In 2014, he arrived at Kings Park — a community he has great respect for.

“One of the things I really like about Kings Park is the things that are important to the community and the school district,” he said. “Over the two years that I’ve been here and in my research when I was applying for the job, there were three things that stood out: Kings Park pride, family and service. Pride you hear about all the time — it’s a very proud community. And then family and service, it’s a very close-knit, family-type community. When somebody has an issue or a problem everybody comes out and helps. They really value service, whether it’s in the armed forces, police, fire, rescue or just typical service to the community. All of those things are part of what I believe in.”

Rudy Massimo, principal at RJO Intermediate School, said Eagen has had a tremendous impact on the morale at Kings Park.

“I’ve never seen teachers more impressed with a superintendent before,” he said. “He really turned around the entire district. To watch it happen is absolutely amazing. He has made [Kings Park] an amazing place to work.”

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo

When Eagen got to work, one of the first jobs he said he wanted to tackle was facility upgrades throughout the district.

“Every time we turned the corner it was another area that needed attention,” he said. “So the bond was big.” The capital project bond referendum was approved by voters in December 2015, and came in at about $41 million. Improvements like roof replacements, bathroom renovations, hardware replacements and asphalt and pavement upgrades are planned at every school in the district. Kings Park High School has some big-ticket items including auditorium upgrades, gymnasium renovations and the creation of a multipurpose athletic field and accompanying concession stand. The plan was divided into certain projects being carried out each year. This past summer the new track was installed and about $8 million in other improvements were carried out.

Eagen said he is proud of the improvements done thus far, and is eager to continue working to improve student experiences at facilities within the district.

In terms of curriculum, Eagen has assured Kings Park students are getting the most up-to-date education possible.

“Robotics has been pretty big,” Eagen said. “As well as classes focusing on programming, logic, research — things of that nature. We hear a lot about college and career readiness … there’s a lot of truth to that in concern to how competitive it is to get into college right now.”

Eagen said in his first year at Kings Park, students and parents approached him with the desire to create a robotics club, and he hit the ground running.

Through help from local legislators and school staff, the team was formed and was even able to compete at an annual competition hosted at Hofstra University in the spring.

“Under the heading of family, we all came together and made it happen,” Eagen said.

After the club was formed, Eagen began working to create a robotics program for all grades in the district. Students now work with programmable robots, that they can move, and make sing and dance. The district also offers a summer robotics camp.

“It’s just really cool,” Eagen said. “It’s the whole coding logic, it’s 21st century lessons. Really what we are trying to do is ensure every student graduates with a general understanding and some skills of programming, robotics, logic and code. It’s good stuff. Kids pick it up so quickly.”

Massimo said Eagen has created an environment for teachers and students to excel.

“He allows us to really run with our ideas,” he said. “You take pride in what you’re teaching your students. This initiative has encouraged us to return to creative academic freedom — sometimes you get lost in the testing world. He’s inspiring to everyone in the administration.”

The Kings Park school board agreed, Eagen has done wonders for the district.

“The board continues to be impressed with Dr. Eagen’s leadership and vision for the Kings Park Central School District as well as the Kings Park community at large,” members said in a joint email statement. “He is a constant advocate for our children — whether it be striving for advancements in our curriculum, our facilities and our programs or leading advocacy groups at the regional and state level on behalf of public education. Dr. Eagen is also a constant presence at community events — whether it be school concerts, plays and sporting events, or local events like parades or group meetings. We are fortunate to have him leading our school district.”

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Paul Casciano is no longer Port Jefferson’s interim superintedent after the school board approved his permanent appointment. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

The Port Jefferson School District has named a new — yet familiar — superintendent.

The board of education appointed Paul Casciano as the district’s new leader at a meeting Dec. 13. The Stony Brook resident and former superintendent for the William Floyd School District had been serving as Port Jeff’s interim superintendent since July.

“I thank the board for this opportunity to serve,” Casciano said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working together with our board of education, leadership team, faculty, staff, parents and community to achieve amazing things for the children of Port Jefferson.”

Casciano was at the helm of the William Floyd district for nine years, though his background in the field of education spans four decades. He retired from that position in 2015, though accepted “an offer he couldn’t refuse,” to serve as Port Jeff’s interim leader this past summer. School board President Kathleen Brennan said she was thrilled with what she saw from Casciano during his interim period after he took over for Ken Bossert, who held the position for five years before departing to lead the Elwood school district.

“The board was impressed from the very beginning when we interviewed [Casciano] in June for the interim position,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “The board thought he’d be a great fit for Port Jefferson.”

Brennan added that Casciano told her he had no intentions of being a placeholder, even if he weren’t selected to be the district’s permanent solution for the position.

“He said he can’t sit still,” Brennan said, laughing. “We have found him to be very thoughtful. He listens more than he talks. When he does speak he’s very thoughtful. He has given the issue at hand his best work in terms of bringing suggestions to the board.”

‘We have found [Casciano] to be very thoughtful. He listens more than he talks. When he does speak he’s very thoughful.’

— Kathleen Brennan

Casciano earned a doctoral degree in educational administration from New York University. At William Floyd he began as an assistant principal in 1982 and worked his way up to superintendent by 2006. He is currently the co-chair of Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) Education Advisory Committee and was also previously the president of the Rotary Club of Shirley and the Mastics. His term as superintendent of Port Jeff’s schools runs through Jan. 1, 2020.

Casciano was put to the test quickly when during the summer a voluntary test of the district’s drinking water turned up traces of lead in several areas. With Casciano leading the way, the district went above and beyond required standards and replaced fixtures that showed lead levels that were below action-level amounts in some cases, to ensure the safety of Port Jeff’s students, according to the president of an environmental consulting firm enlisted to conduct the testing.

“The district response here is at the top of the curve,” Glenn Neuschwender, president of Enviroscience Consultants, said in September regarding Port Jeff’s district-wide response.

Casciano summed up the district and board’s proactive response in September.

“Anything that protects the safety of students is worth the expense,” he said.

Brennan added that on a personal level she’s found Casciano to have a great sense of humor, and said she loves how visible he has been at student functions.

“He’s been great to work with,” she said.

District hires outside company to gather community input

Community residents speak up about what characteristics they're looking for in a new superintendent for the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River turns to the community for guidance in its nationwide search for a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Steven Cohen, who retired over the summer after holding the position for five years.

On Monday night, Bob Freier and Joann Kaplan of District Wise Search Consultants led a community forum at Shoreham-Wading River High School to gauge the public’s opinion on what kind of characteristics and credentials they seek in the district’s next full-time superintendent, a position the district aims to fill by July 1 of next year.

Currently, the district has an interim superintendent in Neil Lederer, who took on the job in August and signed a 10-month contract that ends June 30. The school’s district clerk said Lederer has made no comments in regards to applying for the full-time superintendent position himself, but that it’s a “moot point” as the board of education has hired the superintendent search committee and is now actively looking for someone new.

Joann Kaplan and Bob Freier of District Wise Search Consultants led a community forum at Shoreham-Wading River High School to gauge the public’s opinion on what kind of characteristics and credentials they seek in the district’s next superintendent. Photo by Kevin Redding
Joann Kaplan and Bob Freier of District Wise Search Consultants led a community forum at Shoreham-Wading River High School to gauge the public’s opinion on what kind of characteristics and credentials they seek in the district’s next superintendent. Photo by Kevin Redding

When the question was raised by a member of the community forum as to why Cohen — who is currently serving as interim assistant superintendent at Sachem Central School District — left Shoreham-Wading River, Freier and Kaplan said the reason was unknown.

The search consultants explained that the two major factors that play a role in superintendents leaving are money and the changing of school boards. But taking on interim positions is quite common when somebody retires, said Kaplan. Usually if they’re not quite ready to stay home full-time, they serve as interim until a district gets back on its feet.

At that, the room full of parents was in complete agreement that the district should try to find somebody who’s “not retiring.”

“The purpose of this conversation is to get your feedback,” Freier said. “As parents, what do you think are some of the important characteristics that you’re looking for in the next superintendent of the school district?”

Those in attendance were vocal that whoever serves as educational leader in the district should be well-versed in New York State’s political climate, the Annual Professional Performance Review, Common Core, and state testing. The parents also said they’re looking for someone who is organized on a business level, considering they’ll be in charge of a school budget of roughly $60,000,000; has classroom experience; and has climbed the ladder from teacher to administrator. The parents also stressed thinking out of the box and being creative, and most importantly, they want someone who has students’ best interests — and not the superintendent’s own — in mind.

“I guess we’re saying we want everything,” said Chris Blake, from Shoreham.

He said it’s important that the next superintendent has an overall appreciation of the environment he or she is in, and has a good relationship with the community.

“I think it’s very important that we’re not looking at curriculum, standards and tests … that we’re really looking at what kids need and what’s best for kids.”

— Jeannine Smith

“It’s very important to make the community feel comfortable with you … to be able to approach you,” Blake said. “Not come in and just have one message and then the curtain closes and we’re just waiting for the next appearance.”

Blake said the district has had that happen in the past.

“They should be vested in the district,” he said. “It’s not just a stop-over and come in with all these preconceived notions on how they’re going to do things.”

Jeannine Smith, from Shoreham, said she wants someone who puts the kids first.

“I think it’s very important that we’re not looking at curriculum, standards and tests … that we’re really looking at what kids need and what’s best for kids,” Smith said. “I want my children to go to school every day and have teachers know that they can do what they need to do to get them from one point to another. I want that flexibility.”

Freier and Kaplan told the forum that as a company, they don’t intend on rushing to find just anybody who will take the position. The two said that they take the community’s feedback very seriously. They will even use it to shape the questions that will ultimately be asked to candidates in preliminary interviews for the position.

“We’re not just filling a position … we’re finding the right person for Shoreham-Wading River,” said Kaplan. “Meeting with all of you is crucial.”

If you have any input on characteristics or qualities for the next Shoreham-Wading River superintendent, contact District Wise Search Consultants at shorehamwrsup@districtwisesearch.com.

Robert Murphy. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Robert Murphy (R) is the man with experience.

As interim highway superintendent for Smithtown, re-electing a candidate who has already gotten his feet wet — learning how the department operates and how best to allocate the budget — is in Smithtown’s best interest.

He’s proven to be the guy for the job, and can bring trust and confidence back following the communities concerns after former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) resigned.

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) noted receiving more complimentary calls at the beginning of this year — with the handling of two snowstorms — than any other year.

Murphy is a lifelong resident of Smithtown, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona, so he’s familiar with the area and has almost 25 years of experience in the engineering field. Prior to being named the deputy highway superintendent in 2012, he spent two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County.

He believes in supporting an uptick in worker morale, bringing in jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride, and we applaud his efforts.

While his challenger, Democrat Justin Smiloff, is young and enthusiastic, he does not have the same set of skills. He has his own advantages, including his age, with ideas to modernize and upgrade the department, but we think Murphy is the right choice.

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