SWR parents heated over ‘secrecy’ of superintendent search

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO The Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education on Tuesday faced an angry crowd of residents demanding more information on the superintendent search.

Questioning what they called the ‘secrecy’ surrounding the search for a new superintendent, a group of angry parents attended Tuesday’s Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education meeting to voice their concerns.

“The process has been anything but transparent, collaborative and inclusive,” said board-member elect John Zukowski. “There is significant confusion and concern, and for that the board is to blame.”

Many residents echoed Mr. Zukowski’s sentiments, saying they felt left out of the search process.

School Leadership, the consulting firm hired by the district for $17,000 to carry out the search, collected about 300 surveys in March from teachers, staff members, administrators, PTA members, students and other residents to gauge what the community wanted in a new superintendent.

The firm also held a community forum in March to seek input on candidate criteria, but only about a dozen people attended.

Residents at Tuesday’s meeting scoffed at the idea of the surveys and community forum equating to meaningful community involvement in the search process. And many asked the board for an update on the process, a request that was denied.

Board president Jack Costas said the district’s legal counsel advised board members not to publicly discuss the stage they’re at in the search.

Mr. Costas told in early May that the board would review 30 candidate résumés collected by School Leadership, interview five applicants and narrow it down to two finalists. The identities of the applicants would be released when they became finalists, he said.

But board members declined Tuesday to say how many applicants are left and where they are in the interview process.

“The information will come soon,” Mr. Costas said on Tuesday. “We’re taking a good amount of time because we’re seriously deliberating.”

“I have nothing to hide,” he continued. “I’m looking to have the best person for the district.”

Board members Bill McGrath, Mike Fucito and Leo Greeley said after the meeting that they all take issue with the way board has conducted the search so far, but all declined to elaborate.

Mr. Greeley did say a finalist  will likely be publicly announced in the next couple of weeks, and board members said the community will be able to meet the candidate before he or she is hired.

A few residents said they heard not all of the district’s principals were involved in the search.

Many who spoke Tuesday offered concern over how long the hiring process has taken. They said other districts searching for new superintendents had hired a candidate for the 2011-12 school year before Shoreham-Wading River even began its search.

Mr. Costas attempted to assuage the community’s myriad concerns.

“We’re deliberating over first-rate candidates,” he said.

Superintendent Harriet Copel’s contract expires at the end of July.

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