The New Paltz Central School District’s search for a new superintendent is underway, and last week school officials revealed that they’re happy with the quality of candidates who’ve applied, along with the community involvement in the process.
Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Charles Khoury updated the Board of Education on the process during a meeting held on Wednesday, August 3, saying that as of three days earlier they’d received 757 responses in a little over two weeks to a public questionnaire posted to the district website.
“The fact that…we’re close to 800 (survey participants) right now speaks to how interested this community is in terms of giving input to this board, advice and counsel to this board as they seek to find the next superintendent,” Khoury said. “I’ve done superintendent searches in multiple districts and in districts this size, normal response rates for a survey like this during the school year is about 200 to 250.”
At the time of Khoury’s presentation, roughly 54.82 percent of survey participants identified as parents with children currently attending school in the NPCSD. Other large groups included further 25.10 percent living within the district with no children currently attending local schools, and 12.42 percent who are teachers working in the district.
According to the survey, the most desired professional experience for the next superintendent are experience in attracting, recruiting and retaining teams of outstanding educators; experience as a classroom teacher; and experience as a superintendent. Additional desired experience includes experience as a building principal; experience in a high-performing, high-expectation district; and experience in promoting and evaluating equity and social justice education.
In the top three desired professional skills were establishing a climate of trust and respect; leadership of teaching, learning and curriculum; and fostering high expectations and improving the culture.
Finally, desired personal attributes were also sought, with being skilled in creating and fostering a positive atmosphere in the district; exhibits wisdom, humor and compassion; and inspirational team builder among the top choices.
Khoury said that participants want a superintendent who is active in the community, though not necessary one who lives in New Paltz.
“I would advise the board against doing that, because you will limit your applicant pool,” Khoury said. “Somebody coming in during the first three years of the contract may have to relocate a family. But if the expectation is you’re visible in the community, you really don’t care where you live. You have to be here, you have to be visible, you have to be active in the community. That’s clearly an expectation that this community expects of their superintendent.”
District officials have described Khoury’s involvement in the superintendent search as crucial both educationally and fiscally. Khoury not only has decades of experience in education and administration, but among his responsibilities with BOCES is helping local school districts manage the search process for new superintendents.
Khoury described the search in residential real estate terms.
“When you set out to buy a house, you sit down and you say, ‘What are all the things that I want in my house?,’ and you list them,” Khoury said.“‘I want an open concept, I want four bedrooms, I want three-and-a-half baths, I want a two-car garage, I want an acre of land. And you start making that general list…My job, with the help of Dr. Josefsberg is to find somebody who can check off all the boxes..”
Though Khoury’s assistance comes at no cost, the district 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.
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.
Khoury said the prospect of finding the right superintendent for the NPCSD looks promising.
“We have an incredibly strong applicant pool, and now it’s really a process of vetting those applicants against this profile (collated from community feedback) and finding the best candidates,” Khoury said.