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SWR district superintendent set to retire this summer


The Shoreham-Wading River school board, which is in the midst of completing a $48.5 million construction project voters approved in January 2015, is searching for a new superintendent.

Steven Cohen announced Feb. 23 that he plans to retire this summer from the superintendent position he’s held for the past five years.

During Dr. Cohen’s tenure, voters approved the district’s first capital improvement bond project. The Board of Education also adopted the Princeton Plan, a model that arranged Shoreham-Wading River’s elementary school buildings by grade level instead of catchment area.

“I think we’ve done a lot in a relatively short period of time,” Dr. Cohen said in an interview last week. “I’ve met a lot of wonderful people here and I’ve enjoyed working with a lot of folks. I hope that the board finds someone that will continue along these lines.”

Dr. Cohen, who said his last day will be Aug. 31, believes the school board will have enough time to find a new superintendent while it continues to make headway on the construction bond. He said he wants to be present when the majority of construction takes place this summer, including the installation of new windows and lockers at the high school, and when plans are made for construction at the elementary schools.

“The effort is to really make this an inviting culture for kids to learn and grow,” said Dr. Cohen. “There’s a kind of punitive style as to how to improve education that is really profoundly wrongheaded and I think we’re making a lot of efforts to avoid that happening by creating something that is healthy, that works. It’s an exciting thing to try and put all that together.”

The restructuring of the district’s elementary schools is another accomplishment made under Dr. Cohen’s tenure.

Briarcliff Elementary School, which was a K-1 facility, closed in June 2014 due to dwindling enrollment. Under the Princeton Plan, Miller Avenue Elementary School became a K-2 school and Wading River Elementary School became the facility for grades 3 through 5.

Wading River Elementary School principal Louis Parinello said he believes providing professional development for teachers has played an important role in making the new model a success.

“[Dr. Cohen has] been instrumental in helping and empowering our staff,” he said. “He’s helped teachers have autonomy to make decisions about what’s best for their children.

“I can see the culture he’s fostered continue to grow,” Mr. Parinello continued. “I hope that under the tutelage of the next superintendent he or she continues to support the wonderful initiatives that have all been put into place.”

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Photo: SWR Steven Cohen in his office on Thursday morning. He recently announced his retirement and plans to continue working in the district through the summer. (Credit: Nicole Smith)