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Irvington Parents Seek 'Bulldog' Superintendent

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Parents in the Irvington Free Union School District described a number of characteristics they want to see in the next superintendent, but Dan Knowler said perhaps search consultants should look to the school mascot for inspiration.

The bulldog is a “one-word description” of what Knowler thinks the new superintendent should idealize: someone who can manage the district, implement what's necessary and isn't afraid to say "No."

Knowler's comments were part of three public forums hosted to find out what community residents wanted in a new superintendent. Search consultants from Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates asked parents what was working well in the district, what concerned them in the school district and what personal characteristics they wanted in a new superintendent.

Turnout for all three forums was low, with an average of five to 15 parents at each event.

Irvington school board members want to hire a new superintendent by February 2012 to begin working in July 2012. The new superintendent will replace Interim Superintendent Robert Roelle, who has agreed to fill in the position for one year.

The notion of a strong and passionate superintendent appealed to many parents at the public forums. They said they wanted someone who has vision and wasn't afraid to go after it. Parents also said they hoped the new superintendent could improve communication, citing among other things, the “terrible” district website.

Parents agreed that each school seemed to be well led by principals. They also agreed that the school district has some very good teachers, although some parents pointed out a lack of consistency in teaching.

Parents told consultants they wanted a superintendent who could supervise how educational standards were implemented. They also said they wanted a superintendent who would be “the ultimate advocate for education.”

They also said they wanted a superintendent who would help challenge higher achieving kids. Ellen Weissman noted that the district served many kids well, but it could do more for the kids who need to be challenged.

“The bar just isn't set high enough,” Weissman said.

David Hochheiser has one child in first grade and another that will be starting kindergarten next year. He said the new superintendent needed to be able to garner public support, especially in the wake of the property tax cap law. The tax cap limits schools' ability to raise taxes by two percent unless 60 percent of voters agree to it.

Former school trustee Robyn Kerner said she hoped the new superintendent would take advantage of the parents, many of whom want to be active and engaged in the district.

“You really have a bright, involved group of parents” here, she said.

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