After gathering input from the community about search criteria for the next Malverne superintendent of schools, a search firm will begin recruiting candidates. Consultant Deborah Raizes of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates gave the highlights of the firm’s report at the Nov. 12 Board of Education meeting, which included results of focus groups and a survey.
“The search is coming along extremely well,” Raizes said. “We’re very excited about the possibilities of presenting a really good slate to the board.”
Raizes and a colleague, Edward McCormick, spent the last week of September and most of October conducting focus groups, moderating open forums and reading surveys completed by community members. The full report is available on the district’s website.
The firm expects the next superintendent to be hired by July 1. Raizes’s firm, which specializes in helping school boards find candidates to fill leadership positions, has conducted more than 1,400 searches, and she has personally been involved in about 90 superintendent searches over the past 20 years.
Some 328 people, including parents, students, district residents and faculty members, filled out the survey, and 91 people took part in the focus groups. The questions focused on defining the district’s strengths, the issues and challenges for the new superintendent to take on immediately, and the characteristics and areas of expertise that the parents and district members would like to see in a superintendent. For the survey, Raizes said that 78 percent of respondents ranked the quality of education at 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, 75 percent said they thought schools were safe, and the majority said they felt the district is moving in the right direction.
“We thought that really shows that people have confidence in the district and that they feel good about what’s going on,” Raizes said of the respondents who ranked the quality of education. “Our findings have also shown that the district provides a clear and compelling vision for the future.”
One of the common themes throughout the discussions was the idea of fostering an environment of acceptance. People discussed how Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund had transformed the district and how he raised the bar for Malverne’s expectations for their next superintendent.
“He really makes this search tough for us, because [he] is an icon,” Raizes said.
Hunderfund attributed the district’s success to the Board of Education and the increase of parent involvement. “When you combine the parents and great kids, it was all kind of the perfect storm that came together,” Hunderfund said. “I played a role in it, but it was just a role in the total picture.”
The biggest challenges and issues that respondents noted were hiring teachers and staff that resemble the school’s diversity, how to fluctuate and increase student enrollment, staying under tax cap while maintaining programs, and finding a balance between encouraging high standards and social-emotional well-being.
Regarding staff diversity, Hunderfund said it’s an issue throughout the state. He added that because the district’s staff positions are filled, they are not in a situation to openly hire qualified applicants.
William Anders, a parent who has lived in the district for the past three years, commended the district for its history and academic success. However, he said that the school’s diversity among its student body calls for a more concerted effort from the district to promote a diverse staff.
“Having a diverse staff means you also have diverse ideas and a diverse understanding of different things that might not currently exist in the school district,” Anders said.
Steven Gilhuley, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and educational services, said that two years ago the district, along with parents, examined the process for hiring teachers and realized they needed to increase diversity. Gilhuley said that in recent years, he has attended diversity fairs at the Nassau BOCES. He also reviewed the district’s hiring process with community leaders such as Doris Hicks, president of the Lakeview NAACP. And Gilhuley is on the advisory board for Molloy College and New York Institute of Technology.
“A lot is word of mouth right now,” Gilhuley said. “We’re trying to see what we can do, be a part of different colleges to see what we can get, but it is very difficult.”