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Hunderfund: Years flew by

Malverne superintendent is set to retire at the end of the month

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Continuing to make students great. That was Malverne School District Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund’s last message to the trustees at the Board of Education’s virtual reorganization meeting on July 14.

“We’ve done it together as a team, and I hope that team continues to carry on,” Hunderfund, 76, said.

After 13 years with the district, Hunderfund will retire on July 31. He took the superintendent position in an interim role in 2007. Superintendent Mary Ellen Freeley had just retired, and Hunderfund filled in, he recalled, as a way to stay active — after serving as superintendent of the Commack School District for over a decade and retiring in 2006. But when the district offered him a full-time position, he couldn’t refuse.

“How did my last 13 Malverne years evaporate so quickly?” Hunderfund wondered out loud. “When you’re enjoying what you do, time just flies by.”

He will leave Malverne with nearly 50 years of experience in education, 26 of them as a superintendent. His leadership model is a collaborative one, making the entire community a partner in the educational system. As superintendent, he expanded services in the region through an extensive volunteer program involving students, parents and residents, and established a number of committees, bringing community groups and the schools together. Under his leadership, the district passed two bonds that helped bring its buildings up to 21st-century learning standards.

“Dr. Hunderfund has made tremendous strides in our district by redefining our standards and traditions and bringing our schools, curriculum, students and community together to excel at levels that surpassed our expectations,” school board Trustee Danielle Hopkins said.

The district has received numerous accolades during his tenure. Malverne High was named a New York State Rewards School for the first time in 2014-15. It made the National Achievement Honor Roll for Advanced Placement in 2012, 2015 and 2018, and was the only school in Nassau County to earn the National Policy Center’s Gold Award as a School of Opportunity in 2015.

In addition, as part of the district’s first bond project in 2010, Hunderfund was responsible for the reorganization of the schools into the Princeton Plan, which included moving the fifth grade from the middle school and into the Davison Avenue Intermediate School. He was also instrumental in the creation of the district’s performing arts center, which it opened at Malverne High School last year.

“We’re certainly going to miss Dr. Hunderfund,” board President Phyllis Tinsley said. “We can’t thank him enough.”

Hunderfund said that none of the district’s achievements would have come to pass without collaborative efforts. “No matter what we disagree on, we have to come together and be positive,” he said. “The positive acceptances of all our pluses and minuses as a human race really make us better.”

Dr. Lorna Lewis, an educator for 40 years, will become the district’s new superintendent. Lewis is completing her tenure as the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District superintendent.

“I know that Jim set a path for [the] district’s future of excellence,” Lewis said of Hunderfund, “and I’m hoping to be a part of that.”

Hunderfund told the trustees and administrators that many educational challenges lay ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic. While he won’t be a part of the district’s decision-making process anymore, he said he was confident in Lewis and the board. “I will be there on the sidelines cheering for all of you,” he said. “We have done well by working through some of those difficulties, and that’s what the district must continue to do.”

Hunderfund said he looked forward to spending more time with his wife, Dr. Anna Hunderfund, who retired as superintendent of the Locust Valley School District last month.