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BOE Nixes Contract With Search Firm

In what is hoped to be a step forward for the Westbury School District’s ongoing search for a superintendent, the board of education voted to terminate its contract with search firm Hazard, Young, Attea. However, questions still remain. Will the board continue the search with another firm? Will the board conduct the search themselves? Will it consider current Interim Superintendent Mary Lagnado for the position?  And of course, how long will the process take before a permanent superintendent is named?


The vote to continue or terminate the search was originally not on the agenda for the May 16 meeting. When it was brought up, the board originally decided to not vote or decide on anything until more deliberation and the June meeting, which caused frustrations to grow.


“This is crazy. What are you waiting for? What are you doing to this district? You need to make a decision and move on. You’re just having a stand still. We voted on all of you. Make the decision, do right by the district,” resident Dr. Betty Hylton said.


The board was split, some members wanting to continue with the search firm while others expressing their dissatisfaction with Hazard, Young, Attea.


“We had not heard from the firm so we were not satisfied with the firm. We didn’t feel they had our best interests in mind and they weren’t interactive. I personally don’t feel comfortable moving forward with that firm,” trustee Karin Campbell said.


 “I don’t agree that we should not continue with this firm. I don’t think what happened with the firm was a reason to disconnect. We’ve had other vendors who’ve disappointed us and we’ve had discussions with them. I don’t think we need to sever the relationship. There was a deadline missed. There was a part we played with that as well,” trustee Siela Bynoe said.


After almost an hour of back and forth deliberation, the board passed a motion to terminate the contract with the firm.

TrusteesCampbell, Pless Dickerson, Laura Pierce, and John Simpkins voted in favor of the motion, while Board President Rodney Caines and trustees Bynoe and Leslie Davis were opposed.


Opinions are still split over whether Lagnado, or someone else from within the district, should fill the position. Some community members believe the district should still undergo a search.


“It is important that we have the best person for the entire school community. It is unfair to our children, the Westbury teachers, administrators, taxpayers and everyone throughout the school district not to have a search. You do not know who or what is out there unless you have a search. Please do not shortchange us,” Hylton said.


“Going forward, we need a person who has been in the classroom environment and understands the needs of the children on a daily basis.  I would hope your decision could be handled with some input from the community. I would not like to see any decisions made in haste. It is our children who will pay the price of whatever decisions you [make],” said resident Jackie Caines. “At the end of the search you may find Mrs. Lagnado is best qualified, but all of the avenues would have been researched. None of us could say we did not give our children the best.”


However some residents, and some board members, think that Lagnado should be considered for the position, noting her business experience and work with the budget as tremendous assets.


“Most job hires are internal first. It is necessary for the community to be involved and they should be surveyed to find out the criteria they’re looking for in a superintendent. Once that’s established, the board can look to see if they have someone internally, whether it’s Mrs. Lagnado or someone else, to see if [that person] would be a good fit. And if not, then begin the process of going externally,” resident Larry Kirton said.


“I’ve made a decision,” Dickerson said. “I think we have someone who has served us very well, not only as an assistant superintendent for business but as an interim superintendent. You don’t have to be a curriculum person to be an interim superintendent; you need a strong right hand and you need a strong left hand.”


At the meeting, the board also made the decision to grant Westbury Middle School Principal David Zimbler tenure. The announcement was a surprise to the principal and was voted on unanimously.


“Let me applaud the many many many times you’ve made things happen. Those are the kinds of administrators and employers the district needs. Our students know you believe in them and you’re there for them. You’ve made their experience at the middle school like no other,” Campbell said.


“I want to thank you for being the educator and caring person you are for our children. Your passion radiates, your enthusiasm radiates. Thank you for being you,” Dickerson said.


“One of my many joys in serving this district has been interviewing and appointing you. The same energy you brought into the interview you still carry, and it’s infectious and that’s a good thing,” Bynoe said.