Three outsiders have joined the Herricks school district’s central administration since 2015, but the latest addition comes from within.
The school board on Thursday appointed K. Elizabeth Guercin, the Searingtown School principal, as the new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, effective Sept. 1.
She replaces Christine Finn, who is leaving to become superintendent of the Shelter Island school district.
Guercin has been the elementary school principal for nine years, and has taken an active role in developing new curricular initiatives, district officials said. She said she wants to build on Herricks’ academic growth in recent years.
“We’re a high-performing district, and I think the district just doesn’t want to remain static and kind of settle with, ‘Oh, we’re doing great, that’s enough,'” Guercin said. “It’s about continually growing.”
Guercin’s appointment marks the fourth change to the district’s leadership in less than three years. Finn came to the district in early 2015 from Carle Place schools, and Superintendent FinoCelano came about six months later from Garden City to replace retiring Superintendent John Bierwirth.
Lisa Rutkoske, the assistant superintendent for business, was hired last year after working in Valley Stream school district 30.
District officials picked Guercin after receiving 36 applications and interviewing 12 candidates for the job, Celano said.
Since starting at Searingtown in 2008, Guercin has been active in district committees and already worked closely with curriculum leaders across the grade levels, Celano said.
“We’re confident that Mrs. Guercin will bring the same level of professionalism, dedication and commitment to her new position as she has demonstrated in the past,” he said.
Guercin, a Locust Valley resident, has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, master’s degrees from New York University and City College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate at Hofstra University.
She started as the Searingtown principal after three years as assistant principal at North Shore Middle School in Glen Head. She taught in Herricks’ Gemini program for gifted students for five years before that.
Guercin said her districtwide work and close relationship with Finn will help the transition into her new role, but her first step will be getting a feel for what the job requires.
Guercin aims to build on Finn’s work to push the district’s test scores up and increase high schoolers’ participation in college-level Advanced Placement courses, she said.
In Finn’s tenure, the district’s mastery rates on state tests and number of honors graduates have increased, and its number of AP students rose to the eighth-highest in the state and fifth-highest on Long Island, she said.
“We set goals, we reached them,” Finn said.
School board President Brian Hassan said he’s glad to have a district veteran in one of the district’s top roles after a string of outside hires.
While they said they’ll miss her, Searingtown School parents praised Guercin as a dedicated, compassionate educator with a broad knowledge of state and federal policies and their local impacts.
“We’re talking about somebody who continues her own professional development and brings what she learns to her students,” Genara DiGirolomo, the former Searingtown School PTA co-president, said.
Officials will select an interim Searingtown principal within the next week and search for Guercin’s permanent replacement in the spring, Celano said.
Also on Thursday, district officials said they plan to install new “smart locks” on about 500 doors inside the district’s seven buildings this fall.
The locks will be operated with teacher ID cards rather than keys and can lock all doors in a building simultaneously in case of an emergency, Director of Facilities Jim Brown said.
A $25 million bond voters approved last year will pay for the lock hardware, estimated to cost about $650 per door, Brown and Rutkoske said. The bond will also pay to replace about a quarter of the district’s interior doors, Rutkoske said.
Work is set to start in October on the locks, doors and renovations to Herricks High School’s athletic field.