New Paltz Superintendent of Schools Maria Rice will be leaving her post in the New Paltz Central School District at the end of December, two-and-a-half years after she retired from that same job. She began collecting a pension at the end of June, 2017; the contract she had negotiated with district leaders actually saved taxpayers money by paying her both salary and pension since, as they would no longer be required to pay into the state pension fund on her behalf. Board members are planning on holding a special meeting on Monday, December 9, 6 p.m., at New Paltz High School in room 138 to discuss replacing Rice, who has been superintendent for close to 15 years. Board president Kathy Preston addressed some questions about that process.
According to Preston, a search consultant is expected to have been hired at the Monday meeting, and then trustees “will begin a public dialogue about how best to engage and gather input from the community to help create an applicant profile that encompasses the needs, priorities and vision of [school district] families and community members. This profile will guide the search for potential applicants.” Public meetings will be scheduled once the process itself is finalized.
According to Preston, the board will be working with the search firm (once selected) to determine the priorities and methodology. “Of course there are bound to be some intangibles,” said Preston. “This will likely be part of our conversation at the table on Monday night during the special meeting convened for that purpose.
Preston addressed some additional questions about that process.
Ideally, how soon would you want a new superintendent on the job?
The board plans to have a new superintendent in place by July 1, 2020.
When will an interim or acting superintendent be named?
We will be appointing [as] interim superintendent Dr. Bernard Josefsberg at the December 4 meeting, with a start date of December 18. We will also be appointing interim superintendent for business Don Gottlieb for December 18 through February 4, 2020, and appointing our new assistant superintendent for business, Sharifa Carbon, with a start date of February 5, 2020.
Are there specific powers or responsibilities which would not be given to an interim or acting superintendent which a superintendent typically is given? If so, how will these be managed?
Pursuant to section 1711 of [state] education law, the interim superintendent will serve as chief executive officer of the school district. Dr. Josefsberg has a wide range of experience and is highly qualified, and we expect him to be outstanding in that capacity.
Some members of the community have informally expressed to this reporter a sense of unease at what they perceive as the level of deference given by trustees to the superintendent. What would you say the advantages and disadvantages are to having a superintendent with a tenure exceeding that of all members of the board of education?
I’ve spent enough time on both sides of the board table to understand that perception, however, mutual respect is paramount in maintaining an effective relationship between the board and the superintendent. Nothing is gained for the children of the district otherwise. Those who have paid close attention to board initiatives over the last few years will see that the board’s focus has been consistent with those goals. Ms. Rice’s long tenure in the district has often provided necessary historical perspective for those of us who needed it. Mutual trust and effective communication are paramount, since there are many decisions the superintendent makes on the operational level that also need to be in alignment with the district mission.
The main factor in any decision-making is how it will affect our students, and the board is committed to maintaining that focus as we move ahead, through this interim period and with our new superintendent as well.