Year in Review: School superintendent sets goals for district’s future


Christine Finn

It has been a time of change at Shelter Island School with a new superintendent at the helm.

Christine Finn is the third superintendent to lead the district since 2011.

When parents, teachers and students were asked last April by consultants from School Leadership, what they wanted in superintendent, the qualities they sought might have summed up Ms. Finn’s background and what she could bring to the job.

They told the consultants they wanted:
•    A person who would lift up staff spirit and bring a vision for the district’s growth
•    Someone with a “big personality” who would be a leader
•    A person who either lived on Shelter Island or near enough to become involved with the wider community
•    A superintendent who would stay with the district for several years.

At her first introduction to the community during an August forum Ms. Finn, formerly the assistant superintendent for curriculum in the Herricks School District in New Hyde Park who lives in Wading River, used a slide presentation to introduce herself as a daughter, a sister, a mother and a friend.

She said Shelter Island isn’t a stepping stone for her, but a place she wants to work in a job she’s long coveted. One challenge is to build on the early confidence the Board of Education, staff and community have given her in this honeymoon phase.

She and new district business official, Idowu Ogundipe, have begun work on the 2018-19 budget with the first public meetings set for January 8 and 16. Other budget meetings will follow through April prior to submission of the spending plan to voters in May.

Coupled with the budget is an ambitious academic vision that Board of Education members have said they believe Ms. Finn has the depth of knowledge and experience to tackle.

In this month’s outline of her goals for the district, talking first about planning a budget for the 2018-19 school year, she acknowledged she must be fiscally responsible while still expanding educational experiences for Island students.

She plans, she said, to be stubborn about her goals and flexible about her methods to achieve them.

Ms. Finn said she wants greater integration of skills and more emphasis on team teaching. It also means ensuring staff members have the support they need through training and enhanced use of technology. Early intervention to troubleshoot problems students may be having is critical, as is making sure teachers are assigned to maximize their abilities so all students reach their full potential.

That she intends to be a hands- on educator is clear she plans to spend more time observing teachers in their classrooms.

Her sights are also set on employing mindfulness programs, stress management and character building vital to the development of the whole child, she said.

Another goal Ms. Finn has is launching a Shelter Island television station at the school. That’s already under way at Greenport and Southold schools where one of Ms. Finn’s mentors, David Gamberg, is superintendent for both districts.

Ms. Finn’s community outreach in programs such as a book club and sessions she calls “Doughnuts with Dr. Finn” are designed to encourage open communications.