School Superintendent Christine Finn said when she leaves her post at the end of this month, she’ll be a regular visitor to the Island where she led the school district for the past two years.
In a freewheeling discussion in her office last week, she spoke about the differences in running the small Island school and becoming superintendent in the much larger Carle Place district, her new job, where she worked earlier in her career.
In Carle Place she won’t necessarily get to know the names of every student and have regular interactions with them, which is something she’ll miss.
“I will miss the kids,” Ms. Finn said. The students “always surprised me,” she said.
“Everyone needs a champion and here they have more than one,” Ms. Finn said about the staff on Shelter Island.
She spoke in glowing terms about the support she’s received from organizations on the Island — among them Sylvester Manor, the Shelter Island Historical Society, the library and the PTSA.
Parents in the district have been wonderfully open to her and the staff, Ms. Finn said.
“We need that parental support,” she added. “It really does take a village.”
She describes the seven-member Board of Education as “friendly and caring. They let me do my job.” Discussing her time here, she said, “You try to leave it a little better than you found it,” and that’s something she believes she’s done.
During her two years at the helm, she has been able to add electives to the curriculum, including a course in hydroponics and a television production course.
She implemented a new teacher academy to assist those staff members with adjustments they’re making as they embark on their careers. Prior to a teacher being considered for tenure, Ms. Finn has provided ongoing input.
She also wanted to ensure that if anyone was unlikely to get tenure, it wouldn’t come as a surprise. Elementary school report card formats were changed to make them clearer to parents, Ms. Finn said.
School security has been improved during the past two years and the school calendar has been changed to allow closing on Jewish holidays.
Faculty meetings aren’t stiff sessions with lectures by the superintendent. They’re meant to encourage interaction among the teachers with concentrations on issues that are important to everyone, she said.
There are more off-Island field trips to give students exposure to the wider world, she added, and more art work throughout the building, including murals done by artist and Reporter editorial cartoonist Peter Waldner.
So what’s left in challenges for her successor?
With bonds that will be retired in a couple of years, she will suggest to the Board of Education that it appoint a “facilities committee” to begin examining what’s needed that could be provided without breaking the bank. It will take awhile to determine the next facilities project and determine what’s needed to make it happen, so even though the bonds will be around for a couple of years, they have time to look at and plan future projects, Ms. Finn said.
When she posted her plans to leave on her Facebook page, many of her friends in education said they wanted to apply for the job because from what they had seen of previous posts, she always seemed to be having so much fun working on Shelter Island.
To whoever succeeds her as superintendent/principal here, she has a few words of advice: “Enjoy it. It’s a unique experience.”