Charles Cardillo, the Manhasset school superintendent who oversaw a steady rise in spending until the state imposed budget restrictions, forcing him to make staff cuts, will resign at the end of the school year, he announced on Tuesday.
Cardillo has served as the district’s superintendent since 2005, making his the second-longest tenure at the position, he said in a statement.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said in an interview. “I’ve loved my 12 years in Manhasset with the students, staff, parents and our community. But I also have a family of my own with whom I want to spend significantly more time.”
Cardillo oversaw the district’s four schools: Manhasset Secondary School, Manhasset Middle School, Munsey Park Elementary School and Shelter Rock Elementary School.
“We will greatly miss Mr. Cardillo’s devotion and dedication to our students and our community,” said Regina Rule, president of the Manhasset Board of Education. “We are so very grateful that Mr. Cardillo has presided over a rich period of growth in our fine schools, and he will be terribly missed.”
Anthony Ambrogio, the Manhasset School District’s administrator for the arts and human resources, said, “It’s going to be a big loss for the community because no one else has had the kind of impact that Charlie has had.”
Ambrogio worked with Cardillo from 2002 to 2005 at the Sachem School District before both came to Manhasset. “When Charlie arrived in Manhasset there were a lot of interim administrators and fluctuation caused by principals retiring,” Ambrogio said. “He focused on the team aspect and put together a group with a shared vision.”
Over the years, Cardillo became known for an approach to education that emphasized the 4 A’s: academics, athletics, activities and the arts. “The program is important because it puts all of those elements on equal footing,” Ambrogio said.
The number of advanced placement exams taken by Manhasset students has increased over Cardillo’s tenure from 665 in 2005 to 1,496 in 2016, while the district built up its arts program by adding instructors and expanding facilities.
Cardillo increased the school budget over the years before the imposition of a state property tax cap, which began in 2013, Ambrogio said. That year Cardillo warned that the state funding restrictions would threaten the quality of education in Manhasset.
“The issues that we’re going to be dealing with in 2013-14 and perhaps 2014-15 are external issues,” Cardillo said at the time. “They’re not created by mismanagement, they’re not created by inappropriate fiscal planning. They’re created by the fact that these external factors are coming at one time and put our district at risk.”
Cardillo tried to bypass the tax cap restrictions in the 2013-14 school budget through a community vote, but he failed to achieve the super majority necessary for approval. Since then budgets have remained within the tax cap restrictions.
In keeping with those restrictions, Cardillo cut teachers, administrators, teacher aides and custodians, among other employees.
Common Core implementation, which began in 2013 at the direction of state Commissioner of Education John King Jr., provoked widespread outrage among students, parents and teachers who criticized the difficulty of the curriculum and its standardized tests. Though he expressed frustration about the curriculum as well, Cardillo implemented the tests and encouraged students to take them.
“A lot of districts panicked and jammed it down kids’ throats but we took a more measured approach,” Ambrogio said.
In 2014, Cardillo led an effort to pass a $22.6 million capital plan and a corresponding $19.96 million bond proposal for renovations to classrooms, cafeterias and athletic fields, which the community approved. Some of that work, like cafeteria renovation and the installation of security lighting, has been completed. But many of the projects are behind schedule due to a backlog in project approval at the state Department of Education, Cardillo said.
In early March, a nonprofit transparency organization called Reclaim New York requested expenditure records from the district, which set off a seven-month dispute that escalated from private disagreements to a court battle.
On Oct. 6, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the Manhasset school district violated the Freedom of Information Law in refusing to provide expenditure records in a timely manner to Reclaim New York.
“The lawsuit is a nonissue. We’re not pursuing anything,” Cardillo said, indicating that the school district will not appeal the decision.
Doug Kellogg, communications director for Reclaim New York, responded to Cardillo’s retirement by saying, “if this means the next person who comes on as superintendent is more focused on transparency then that’s great. But it’s completely unclear whether that will happen.”
Cardillo and his wife have six sons, two of whom are married. He also has four grandchildren. “I have a big family that’s growing,” he said. “I want to be involved with them.”
Cardillo’s wife, Debbie, experienced a severe illness earlier this year that led to open heart surgery and a long recovery that spanned the summer. “It showed me how vulnerable we all are,” he said.
According to its announcement, the board of education will promptly begin a search for a new superintendent. “I’ll be involved in the search process as a sixth member of the board,” Cardillo said. “We’ve worked very well together since 2005 and will continue to do so throughout this process.” He said he intends to meet all prospective replacements.
He thanked students, faculty and staff as well as “guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, teacher assistants, supervisory aides, monitors, nurses, clerical, custodians, security, grounds and bus drivers.”
He said in the interview: “I’m sad to be leaving. This has been a wonderful place to work.”