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Levittown BOE Creates Subcommittee to Search for Superintendent

Will Consider Dr. Sirois for Position Even After He Retires

At their meeting on Tuesday, July 6, the Levittown Board of Education established a three-member subcommittee to “begin the search process for identifying, recruiting and hiring a successor to Dr. Sirois, on or prior to the June 30, 2011 expiration of his contract.”

Dr. Herman Sirois, the superintendent of schools, submitted his letter of resignation to the board last July, but he said at this July 6 meeting that he was hoping he would still be considered for the position.

“I’ve told them over and over again I want to stay,” Sirois told the Levittown Tribune. Sirois said that he submitted his letter of resignation because he was pressured to do so by members of the board who “have a vendetta against me.” He said that although he did resign, he always made it clear that he was interested in staying with the district. For example, he included his salary, with some change in benefits, in his budget proposal last spring, pending contract negotiations. The negotiation has not happened thus far.

“There was never any doubt, I always expressed desire and interest to stay in Levittown,” Sirois said. He said he turned down positions in other districts in recent years in order to stay in Levittown because his current contract is structured to encourage him to stay.

“I need to retire,” Sirois said at the meeting. “If I don’t retire I’m penalized by the retirement system.” He said this in response to Trustee James Ward’s comment that Sirois voluntarily submitted his letter of resignation, effective June 30, 2011, when his current contract expires.

Sirois said that although he is retiring it doesn’t mean he won’t continue working, as is common practice, he said.

Sirois told the Tribune that the state teachers’ retirement system requires that he retire after 30 years. However, once he is over 65 years old, he can “work anywhere you want,” he said.

The subcommittee consists of the three most senior board members, save for Trustee Ed Powers who asked not to be on the subcommittee; newly-named Vice President Peter Porrazzo, new Secretary Kevin Regan and Trustee Ward. New Board President Mike Pappas will serve as an alternate member.

Visibly unhappy and hoping to maintain his position in the district, Sirois made it clear to the board that he was offended at the idea of creating a subcommittee to search for his replacement while he wanted to remain in the position. The retirement, it seems, is just a technicality.

“After 30 years, to kick someone out is pretty heartless,” Sirois said to the board. “You just don’t treat people with that kind of complete disregard after what I’ve devoted to this community,” Sirois told the Tribune.

Responding to Sirois’ pleas to consider him as his own replacement, Pappas said, “We owe it to the public,” to create the subcommittee and search, at least to see what else is out there. Porrazzo agreed, saying regardless of what they think of Sirois, the subcommittee needs to compare him to other candidates.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the board has ruled out keeping Sirois as superintendent, saying after 25 years as superintendent and 30 years in the district “we owe him that much,” as Ward said. However Ward cautioned the board against limiting themselves, saying, “We can’t simply narrow our spectrum to one person, as important as you are in the district,” speaking to Sirois.

“We owe Dr. Sirois at least the courtesy to sit down with him and hear what he has to say,” Regan said. “He’s entitled to that.” Regan suggested doing this before the subcommittee was established, which of course did not happen.

Among suggestions to go along with the newly created subcommittee was an idea from Powers to create another subcommittee aimed at drafting potential contracts to present to superintendent candidates. He argued that when candidates are going through the interview process they should be presented with an outline for a contract. This, Powers said, would save time for both the district and the candidates by being up-front about requirements and requests from both sides.

Ward suggested taking advantage of groups like the NYS School Boards Association in searching for candidates.

“It takes a while to search and get the right person for the job,” Ward said.