A sit-down with the super

After five years of working as an administrator in the Riverhead School District, Nancy Carney was sworn in as superintendent Tuesday night. Although she said her number one goal will be working on student achievement, Ms. Carney added that she’d like to see a better relationship among the district, faculty, students and community.

She said she’s excited about her new role and has recently relocated from Springs to a house in Riverhead. The new superintendent began her education career in 1994 as an elementary school teacher at the Hampton Day School in Bridgehampton and later worked as a teacher and administrator in the Springs School District. Ms. Carney, 51, is divorced and has two grown daughters.

She took a position as Riverhead’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in 2005. Three years ago, she became deputy superintendent under former superintendent Diane Scricca. She is currently a doctoral candidate at St. John’s University, where she is pursing a degree in education.

She recently sat down with the News-Review to talk about her plans for the district and the challenges she knows she will face.

Q: How would you describe your managerial style?

A: Collaborative, but also very determined. I take this position, I take education, very, very seriously.

As a manager, I like to bring people on board to have discussions, to listen and to bring to the table as many different great ideas on what we need to do to move forward.

I definitely like to be collaborative but I also like to make sure things get done and we have follow through.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new role as superintendent?

A: I’ve decided to move to Riverhead. I’ve rented a home here in the Town of Riverhead and I’m really excited to become a part of the community, to really participate in weekend and evening events. I’d like to be here for a long time.

I’d like to retire from here in 13, 14 years. I know that has not been the history recently. There has been a lot of turnover with superintendents. I think in order to really see things through and really see the change that needs to occur, we need to have people here for a long time. I would like to be here for the long haul. We have a lot of work to do. I’m excited about doing the work and about being a part of the future of Riverhead not only as a school district, but as a community.

Q: What changes do you hope to make?

A: The culture. Making sure we have a collaborative culture where students, teachers, administrators, the Board of Education and the community are all really working together. This is a tough job and a challenge we have ahead of us. It is the 21st century, the whole world is changing. The way students learn is very different given the new technologies we have. We have a lot of work to do to make sure all of our kids are very successful. It’s not as it used to be, when you could just graduate high school and find a job where you could take care of yourself and your family.

Kids need to learn to be more flexible to continue learning. It’s really about giving kids skills they need to continually learn and grow and understand how important education is in preparing you to make tough decisions.

Q: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the district faces?

A: We have a lot of challenges as a district. We have begun this summer really outlining our goals for the upcoming years and prioritizing those things we need to work on.

The most important challenge, of course, is really looking at our student achievement. This has been a difficult year for all our students in the sense that, as we’ve been making a lot of steady progress, the state changed the cutoff for scores. We realize we have a lot of work to do and we need to work very aggressively in closing the achievement gap that exists with our minority students and increase the rigor of our curriculum so that we are really preparing all of our kids for college.

We’ve already begun working very seriously with our administrative staff on data analysis, looking at areas we need to strengthen, so that our kids are more successful and better prepared for college.

Q: How do you think the district should best address space and infrastructure issues?

A: We have a wonderful buildings and grounds crew and the staff that has maintained our buildings, but we really have very serious infrastructure needs.

The board and I are working together on an action plan as we go forward.

We want to really invite community participation. We are going to create, as part of our community advisory council, a community team specifically dealing with how we are going to address these issues and find our what type of bond we can get the community to support. Really prioritizing those things that we have to fix, safety first, as well as being sure our roofs aren’t leaking and our sidewalks are repaired. Then making sure we really have the right learning environments.

As a community, as a team, we want to bring people together and invite people to participate.

The school should be the hub of the community. We need to be proud of schools and we are, but we do need to be sure that we are vigilant in maintenance and updates.

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