Sewanhaka board blamed as few attend search for super

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Only five local residents showed up to Sewanhaka Central High School District superintendent search meeting last Thursday, which residents blamed on poor communication on the part of the Sewanhaka board of education.

Transparency and lack of leadership were the primary complaints residents expressed during the meeting in the Sewanhaka High School auditorium.

“I don’t think they really wanted the meeting,” Felix Procacci said in reference to the Sewanhaka Central High School District Board of Education. “I didn’t see any mention of the meeting on the Sewanhaka High Web site, and I checked the Web site daily, even the night before the meeting was to take place.”

“If you want to feel like an outsider, go to a Sewanhaka Central High School Board meeting,” Floral Park resident Linda Barreyre said. “They keep us in the dark, they just don’t tell you things and the programs aren’t well communicated.”

Last Thursday’s meeting was intended to gain public input about the qualities residents want in a new superintendent. But Procacci, a member of the citizen budget advisory committee for the Franklin Square School District, expressed dismay at the scant turnout of district residents, who he said could not adequately reflect the opinions of the Sewanhaka district’s residents.

The district comprises approximately 135,000 residents.

“This disturbs me greatly. I feel this is a waste as we don’t represent 80,000 households,” Procacci said.

School Leadership President Charles Fowler, along with consultant Laruth Gray conducted the meeting, presenting residents with three overall questions.

School Leadership was hired by the Sewanhaka school board to help find a replacement for outgoing superintendent Warren Meierdiercks, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.

“What are the good things about Sewanhaka, what do you see as the challenges the new superintendent will encounter, and what experiences and style of leadership do you expect from the new superintendent,” Fowler said, articulating the questions.

According to Gray, School Leadership conducts the meetings with local PTA, civic associations and public meetings in order to look for “the common theme.”

“I think it would be easier to take one superintendent from one of the component schools in the elementary district and have them take over as the next superintendent of the high school district,” Procacci said.

Procacci said he has presented the idea of consolidation to the Sewanhaka school board in the past, but added the idea was not well received.

“In the future perhaps we should accept candidates that don’t just have a specific background in finance or education. What we are looking for are leaders, sharp, strong and smart leaders,” Elmont resident Muzzio Tallini said.

Muzzio used President Abraham Lincoln as an example of a leader he believed portrayed the values he sees as important.

“Lincoln surrounded himself with people who had different opinions. I hope that the new superintendent does not surround themselves with ‘yes’ people,” Tallini said

Fowler said results of the meetings will be presented to the Sewanhaka school board in late April in what he described as a “specification development report,” which he said consists of the five or six main ideas the local community is looking for in a superintendent.

There are approximately 40 applicants so far, according to Fowler, who said there were no applicants applying from within the district.

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