The Saugerties Central School District’s (SCSD) Board of Education may be pumping the brakes on targeting a start date of July for a new superintendent of schools.
The SCSD School Board held a special meeting on Thursday, April 27 to discuss their process as they seek to replace former Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt, who left Saugerties in late March after less than four years at the helm. The School Board has enlisted the aid of Dr. Jonah Schenker, district superintendent of Ulster BOCES, to help conduct the search.
Schenker was on hand at the special School Board meeting last week to discuss how the timeline would unfold. According to Schenker, the call for applications is already open, with a submission deadline of Tuesday, May 9. Interviews would begin on May 16, with final interviews likely the week of May 22-25. An offer to the primary candidate would occur by Tuesday, May 30, followed by an appointment by the School Board at their meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 16. The official start date of Thursday, July 1, the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.
Schenker also suggested that not all applicants would be interviewed, and that viable candidates would receive three questions with a two-day window to submit their responses on video.
“That’s the timeline that needs to happen if July 1 is the target,” Schenker said, noting that a superintendent search generally takes around six months to complete.
But while the July 1 timeline was initially requested by trustees, it may be too quick for some of them, particularly as it would minimize feedback from the community.
“One of the things that I am concerned about with our timeline is the lack of community input,” said “Krista Barringer. “When we did our last superintendent search we made sure that we had a lot of feedback.”
Fellow trustee William Ball agreed.
“People want to be heard,” Ball said. “Are we trying to put ten pounds in a five-pound bag?”
“If community engagement is what you’re after and is what’s needed, this doesn’t do that,” Schenker said. “It’s not included.”
Schenker suggested that there might be ways of extending the deadline to allow for public input without turning it into a six-month search. For a start, he recommended that they stick with the May 9 application deadline.
“Four-to-six weeks is a long application process,” Schenker said. “You’re going to see the viable candidates apply within the first week or two. People who are interested are ready, they have application materials, and they’re looking.”
Schenker said that an extensive public survey might slow down the process more than the School Board is hoping, but that a truncated survey might be of use.
“I would suggest dialing in to some really precise questions that are going to be most critical and that are going to inform you,” he said, adding that the district could host an open house for finalists to allow for the public to ask questions prior to trustees making their final decision. The possibility of reviewing public surveys undertaken prior to the hiring of Reinhardt might also be of value.
Barringer suggested that a town hall-formatted open house should include a virtual component for community members who couldn’t make it in person. Barringer, who is not running for re-election this year, added that it might be useful for trustees-elect to be included in the process after the polls close on Tuesday, May 16.
The submission portal is already active through Ulster BOCES, and includes a number of qualifications, including a vision for the future, proven leadership experience, a desire to become an active part of the Saugerties community and an ability to implement Next Generation Learning Standards.
The SCSD is currently being led by Interim Superintendent Dan Erceg, who was promoted to assistant superintendent shortly before Reinhardt announced his plans to return to his former employer, the Kingston City School District, in March of this year.
Reinhardt’s return to Kingston came just four years shy of his departure, when he left his position as Kingston High School principal for the superintendent’s role in the SCSD. He arrived in Saugerties close to two years after his predecessor Seth Turner left for a similar position on Long Island.
Reinhardt spent an eventful nearly four years in Saugerties. 2019-20, his first year as superintendent, was marked by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning, which saw school districts across the country and around the globe scrambling to maintain educational continuity and equity in a time of global turmoil. During his tenure, the SCSD also addressed the economic impact of dwindling enrollment by closing Mt. Marion Elementary, dropping the number of elementary schools in the district from four to three.
He also leaves his mark on Saugerties in other ways, including helping shape a cabinet he recently said sets up the district for success in years to come, along with addressing academic and equity issues he believes will assure every student has their best chance of success. The graduation rate in Saugerties rose to 90 percent during his time as superintendent.
As for Reinhardt’s full-time replacement in Saugerties, their arrival could come as early as July 1, or perhaps later in the summer. Schenker is likely to return to the SCSD at the next Board of Education meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 to share how the superintendent search might look with varying levels of public involvement.