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Letter: Dr. Hankin's Retirement

By now you have all heard the news of Dr. Hankin’s retirement. Dr. Hankin formally offered her resignation to the board last Tuesday, and it was accepted unanimously.  While I can only speculate on the reasons for her leaving, I wish her the best in her retirement.  With the new financial challenges facing all districts in New York, this is an opportune time for change and a fresh perspective.

Dr. Hankin’s resignation will take effect October 31st, so we need to have a replacement by November 1st. Speaking to board members in other districts, constituents within the community, varied professionals in the employment field and many other business leaders with broad experience in hiring executives, I have listened to the pros and cons regarding the many possible alternatives we are currently faced with.  My personal opinions on the subject are as follows:

Hiring an interim superintendent from outside the district would be a good choice only for a district facing many problems, since an outside perspective would offer alternative remedies for existing problems. That is NOT the case in Syosset, where the district is operating smoothly. An outsider without working knowledge of our district would take time to get up to speed. By the time this hire was familiar with all the staff within the district, this person would be gone.

Attempting to hire a permanent replacement by November 1st would put undue pressure on the selection process and would limit the overall universe of qualified candidates.  I believe the candidate pool willing to take the job mid-year would be filled with many candidates expecting to be ousted from their current position, those currently without jobs, or those having problems within their own district. Many of the exceptional candidates, who we should be considering, would not be willing to leave their districts since the new year has already begun, so we should be looking to make a permanent hire with a start date of July 1st, 2014.

Immediately hiring an executive search firm also feels rushed. Taking referrals for search firms from entities currently involved with our district could be self-serving, so I feel we should not go in that direction.  Most of the search firms specializing in the education field will be present at the NYS School Boards Association Annual Convention held in Rochester on October 24th – 26th, 2013. Meeting representatives from these firms and interviewing them personally would allow for the best evaluation, rather than simply putting out a general RFP (Request For Proposal).  We will also have the opportunity at the convention to speak with many other school districts and learn of their experiences with many of the search firms we will consider, allowing for a much more informed decision.

There are several dozen Superintendents who will be presenting on different educational topics during the many workshops at this same convention.  Other local school districts have successfully found a replacement Superintendent at this convention. Additionally, this opening is already highly publicized in the news and we can invite candidates to apply directly to the district.  If we find an excellent candidate this way we would not even have the need for a search firm and we would not have to pay any fee they would charge.

After evaluating all the pros and cons, I feel we have one option that is clearly the best: Since our current Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Streitman, is already in our employ through the end of the school year, the board has the authority to offer him the position of acting Superintendent. This would negate the need for any hurried decision for a permanent replacement.  Removing the time constraints will allow us to be deliberate in our search and should hopefully result in an excellent hiring decision.

Dr. Streitman has served alongside Dr. Hankin for over 2 decades.  He already is familiar with our budget, our faculty, and our district.  With each employee of the district doing the job they are already prepared for, this year can proceed smoothly and seamlessly through this transition. We are already obligated to pay Dr. Streitman’s salary for the year. Why would we want to incur an additional salary that is not necessary? While performing as the acting Superintendent, Dr. Streitman will have the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities and give the board the opportunity to evaluate his performance firsthand. This gives us the entire school year to decide on an elite candidate for the job, or we may learn from his performance that Dr. Streitman is an excellent candidate for the permanent position. It is also possible that he could reject our offer, but that decision, at least for me, would clearly define his commitment to this district going forward.

I believe our first order of business is to select new attorneys to represent the district from the RFP we have already sent out.  By selecting the new attorneys, we can then rely upon them for the proper legal procedures we need to follow to remain in compliance with all education law during this time.

I will continue to apprise the community about the steps we as a board will be taking.

Joshua Lafazan