Analysis: What should guide the hunt for Hynes replacement?

JULIE LANE PHOTO |  Superintendent Michael Hynes' last day will be July 28.

Superintendent Michael Hynes’ last day will be July 28.

The survey Shelter Island’s Board of Education launched two weeks ago to elicit responses from the public about the qualities they would like in their next superintendent is one of many steps taken to replace Dr. Michael Hynes.

It offers parents, teachers and staff and members of this tight-knit community a voice in the important decision-making process.

A current member of the BOE described the challenge, explaining that three years ago, the aim was to find someone with a vision for the district. This time, the search is for someone capable of continuing to implement the vision Dr. Hynes brought to Shelter Island.

That likely means a continuation of the two education centers — one devoted to math, science and technology and the other to English and social studies. It also means ongoing team teaching and a coordinated curriculum so that what students are learning from one perspective in a history class, for example, can be linked to what they are reading and writing in English.

The newly launched oral exams in which seniors participated this spring need work, Dr. Hynes told the BOE in June. He wants teachers to start students on the road to oral presentations at earlier grades so they become more adept at expressing themselves. And he anticipates that the BOE and administration can learn from the second part of the oral exams that enabled each senior to assess the strengths and weaknesses of Shelter Island education. That should be a useful tool in strengthening the educational process, Dr. Hynes said.

Although money wasn’t available to totally implement an expanded field trip policy, one significant new trip is planned for sixth graders in the 2014-15 school year and the BOE is likely to gradually offer more field trips as money allows.

Despite having to stay within the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap, the BOE and administration have implemented fiscal policies that have enabled expansion of staff and programs. That has included adding hours for the school’s part-time social worker.

In its survey, the BOE asked for views about major leadership challenges respondents expect the district to face in the next three to five years and sought recommendations to help guide the selection process.

But there was also a list of experiences and skills on which the survey sought input in terms on how important each is in a new superintendent.

That list is intriguing. The initial temptation is to check everything. But beware.

For example, should the next superintendent have a doctorate degree? Dr. Hynes has one. But highly skilled Southold Superintendent David Gamberg, who will soon be leading two districts as he continues his role in Southold but adds the Greenport School District to his responsibilities, does not. Yet he has been one of the dynamic leaders, along with Dr. Hynes and Dr. Steve Cohen from the Shoreham-Wading River School District, to champion the effort of replacing the flawed Common Core program with alternative means of improving education.

Should Dr. Hynes’ successor have been a superintendent elsewhere? Both Michael Comanda of Greenport and Nancy Carney of Riverhead were not superintendents prior to their appointments. Yet both have demonstrated considerable talents in tackling their jobs that have benefitted their respective districts.

The list goes on and for every attribute that appears desirable, there are countless examples of people who lacked that asset at the outset, but developed it when needed.

If you ever put together a list of the qualities you sought in a perfect date or mate and then met someone wonderful who didn’t fit that list, you understand that the most significant qualities can’t always be reduced to a few words.

The next superintendent will be challenged to hold to a high standard educationally and fiscally. The board has made it clear that no place holders, seeking to boost their pensions prior to retirement, need apply.

The BOE needs an intelligent, energetic, imaginative, innovative and creative leader, but also someone who can identify flaws in his own efforts and when circumstances dictate, reverse course.