East Meadow School District's Hanover Research partnership under scrutiny: Superintendent responds to concerns


The East Meadow Union Free School District Board of Education approved a resolution last month to partner with Hanover Research, a global information service firm, to help the district develop a strategic plan that will guide it toward excellence, innovation and inclusivity. After a presentation with the firm on Jan. 22, however, attendees — including several board members — were left with more questions than answers as to why a partnership with Hanover was necessary.

And at a school board meeting on Feb. 7 in the Salisbury Center, several trustees not only voiced their concerns, but also withdrew their support for working with the research firm because of their dissatisfaction with the initial presentation.

Among other agenda items during the meeting, district Superintendent Kenneth Rosner addressed the concerns that arose after Hanover’s presentation last month. Part of the problem, he said, was that it was led by account executives.

“We should have had the actual researchers here — they were not able to come, and we were on a time constraint,” Rosner said. “And you know, you can put that on me, but the account executives should not be presenting something like this. I want to work with people who are experts in this field, and I am confident that people I’ve met with via Zoom are the right people for this. It wasn’t the account executives there.”

When the executives were unable to adequately answer questions from community members at last month’s presentation, Rosner joined them in front of the crowd to try and explain things better.

“I think that a lot of the confusion is based upon a very poor presentation from the Hanover research group,” Rosner said. “That’s why I got up a few times and grabbed the microphone, because some questions were not being answered, that I think if they were more thorough, I probably wouldn’t have to do this. But that’s my responsibility, and that’s why I’m here tonight.”

Rosner assured the attendees that there are no major corporations that don’t have a strategic plan.

“East Meadow does not,” he said. “It’s very, very important to plan for the future of our students. And that’s what the Hanover researcher consultants do — they work hand in hand with our district leadership team, our community, to build a strong plan for what we will be doing in East Meadow over the next five years. The board is an integral part of that.

“This is about the five P’s,” Rosner added. “Proper planning prevents poor performance. We are a high-achieving district, but that does not take away the fact that we have things that we need to do for our students, and our teachers and our community.”

Rosner called the Hanover process “a full community engagement process.” It will include feedback from internal and external stakeholders, and using surveys and other forms of research, Hanover will build a step-by-step guide that identifies broad district goals as well as goals for individual schools. The firm will also analyze student data from the last five years.

“The big part of what they do is create a dashboard based on that data — we’re going to be getting thousands and thousands of data points coming in from these surveys that we’re going to need to kind of disaggregate and put together into plan,” Rosner explained. “They are academic K through 12 partners in research, and that’s the crux of what the company does. They work with us. They don’t do this for us.”

Rosner said that what Barnum Woods Elementary School needs may differ from McVey Elementary School — and that’s what the research will eventually pinpoint.

A point of concern in the community was why the district needed to bring in an outside consultant firm in the first place. Rosner said that while East Meadow does have the ability to assess itself, that would likely lead to insufficiencies in planning.

“When you plan like this inside the organization, there are blind spots, because nobody likes to admit that they’re not doing something well, or that we’re not doing all that we can do,” he said. “I think an outside lens looking at our data, guiding us so there are no blind spots, is essential.”

Hanover is contracted with BOCES, which will be a great help to the district, enabling it to get 50 percent of the money back that it invests in the firm’s services.

“I believe in it wholeheartedly,” Rosner said of Hanover. “I think we need a road map and a plan to get to where we need to get.”

Comments and questions from board trustees included ensuring that future presentations and interactions with Hanover are more thorough, and that confidentiality will be ensured for all those who take part in surveys.

Rosner’s presentation was applauded by the board and other attendees, with several stating that they found it more informative that Hanover’s.

“I think you did a much better presentation than Hanover Research,” board Vice President Eileen Napolitano said. She added that Rosner had emailed the board the morning after Hanover’s presentation last month, apologetic about the firm’s performance. 

“I think you deserve the applause right now,” said Trustee David Carl, who had voiced concerns about Hanover earlier in the meeting. “You’re doing a better job now of Hanover’s own job than they did themselves. You’re here blowing it out of the water in terms of providing us with information.”

Hanover’s Jan. 22 presentation, as well as last week’s board meeting, are available for viewing on the school board’s YouTube channel, YouTube.com/@EMUFSDBoardofEducation. The next board meeting is scheduled for March 6, at 7 p.m., at the Salisbury Center in Westbury.