The New Paltz Central School District recently began its search for a new superintendent, enlisting the aid of Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Charles Khoury to guide the process, as well as asking for feedback from the public.
The NPCSD last underwent this process a little over two years ago before hiring Angela Urbina-Medina; the now-former superintendent officially resigned at the end of last month after just two years in the role.
While the search for a full-time superintendent is underway, Interim Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg was hired as a familiar face to undertake the everyday administration of the district. Josefsberg served as interim superintendent in New Paltz for roughly six months between the departure of former Superintendent Maria Rice in December 2019 and the arrival of Urbina-Medina in the summer of 2020. Urbina-Medina was hired on a four-year contract that paid her $197,000 per year, and officially started her job on July 1, 2020. She left exactly two years later.
District officials described Khoury’s involvement in the superintendent search as pragmatic both educationally and fiscally. Khoury not only has decades of experience in education and administration, among his responsibilities with BOCES is helping local school districts manage the search process for new superintendents at no cost.
The district has established a $20,000 budget for other associated services, including the development of recruitment materials, advertising and background checks, all of which are eligible for roughly 50 percent reimbursement through state aid.
“We will cast a wide net to ensure that we are attracting a diverse and qualified candidate pool for consideration,” said Khoury in a district press release.
Though they didn’t plan on searching for a new superintendent so soon after the last time, in an interview with Hudson Valley One, School Board President Bianca Tanis said the work done a little over two years ago will come in handy in the present.
“Rather than hold the extensive stakeholder feedback sessions we conducted last time, we are utilizing the data collected in 2020 along with additional feedback from a comprehensive survey that was shared with the community,” Tanis said.
The community survey (www.newpaltz.k12.ny.us/tellus) is open through the end of July, but there are also other opportunities for the public to offer feedback. Two of three informal community sessions planned for early in the process have already taken place, with the last currently scheduled planned for Monday, August 1 at the Main Street Bistro from 7 to 8:30 p.m. That feedback will be analyzed and presented by Khoury at the School Board’s meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 3.
Tanis said the early focus of the next superintendent may be different than that of Urbina-Medina, who came on just a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic and was asked to help find a path toward safe in-person learning. Things will be slightly different this time around.
“At this point, the BOE is eager to receive data that will give a clear picture of where our students are academically and emotionally, what their specific needs are in the wake of COVID and how we are supporting these needs,” Tanis said. “Now that we do have some sense of normalcy, I would imagine that the next superintendent will focus on getting to know the students, families, staff and community. It will also be up to the new superintendent to use their expertise to determine key areas to focus on, and we will certainly be asking candidates about their views on this.”
The online application portal is expected to go live soon, and Tanis said she hoped to hear from some applicants from last time around. Trustees will review each candidate based on qualifications and community priorities, and will then select those who will receive interviews. Following background checks, full interviews with the Board of Education will be arranged for late August, with finalists asked back for a second round of interviews the following month.
A recommendation for the next superintendent of the NPCSD is anticipated to coalesce in late October, with the hopes of the job starting in January 2023. Tanis said coming on in the middle of a school year presents its own set of obstacles.
“The BOE will be looking for candidates who can articulate a solid plan to address the challenges of taking the reins mid-year,” she said.
Though they’ve made equity and antiracism a district priority, trustees have faced some public criticism for the perception of difficulty with hiring and keeping employees of color. Prior to Urbina-Medina’s resignation, Assistant Superintendent of Business Sharifa Carbon officially resigned in April after being placed on administrative leave one month earlier. Carbon has since taken a similar role in the Kingston City School District.
“Identifying leadership that can analyze all aspects of the district through an equity and anti-racist lens — which includes hiring and maintaining staff of color — is one of the Board’s priorities in hiring a new superintendent,” Tanis said.
In announcing her pending resignation at a Wednesday, June 15 meeting of the School Board, Urbina-Medina did not directly address equity, but did mention “systemic issues” within the district.
“Compounding the pandemic was the fact that the New Paltz Central School District had undergone tremendous upheaval with numerous staffing changes and key leadership positions in the year or so prior,” she said. “My entire administrative team was untenured, many just months into their tenure in the district, and the rest reeling from many systemic issues that led to the exodus of their predecessors. The trust issues were abundant and represented in every unit.”
Tanis declined to offer specifics on the departure of Urbina-Medina, citing an agreement between the former superintendent and the district.
“Part of that agreement the BOE entered into with Ms. Urbina-Medina was to refrain from making disparaging remarks about each other,” she said.“I am firmly committed to honoring the terms of the agreement.”
The next meeting of the NPCSD Board of Education is scheduled for Wednesday, July 27.