Less than two dozen district residents and parents showed for Monday's forum on what qualities the next superintendent of schools should have, but those who did were earnest about what their schools represent.
The forum at Finley Middle School was hosted by two members of the search firm tasked with finding the right candidate, Bob Freier and Joann Kaplan. Kaplan said she was a bit surprised at the small number of attendees, given the amount of outreach done to promote the event.
A questionaire was handed out, filled out and collected. Freier began by asking what positive aspects of the district should be appreciated by a new superintendent.
One resounding answer: diversity.
"You can have a child from a wealthy background sit at a desk next to a child from below the poverty line and they have no idea. They sit together, they learn together, they play together," said parent Suzanne Anderson.
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Another called Glen Cove "real-world," a place where children of six-figure income families are in the mix with the kids of the folks who cut their grass or serve them in local restaurants.
One mother said she was raised far from Long Island and chose the community several years ago as the place where she wanted to raise her young children. She described her initial optimism being eroded by negative characterizations of the city and its schools, first by an elderly neighbor who questioned her attraction to the community when she introduced herself.
With her children reaching toddler age, she said she is becoming paranoid that she made a mistake.
"I'm hearing things about the district in this apologetic tone all the time," she said.
Resident Ray Pinder, an assistant principal at a school in Manhattan, said he has more than 20 years' experience in education. He had high praise for the quality of Glen Cove's educators.
"I would put these teachers in my school today," Pinder said. He emphasized the importance of getting parents to be active in the district's goings-on.
"If you want a district to thrive, you need to have parents involved at all times," he said.
Attendees expressed confidance in all levels of the district's administration. Parent Eric Bailey said administration members and educators "are not people who are just coming to work. They live in Glen Cove. They are stakeholders."
Deputy superintendent Kevin Wurtz and assistant superintendent of curriculum Michael Israel were mentioned specifically. Attendees gave Wurtz credit for turning the district's shaky books into a sound financial base during the last nine years as the schools' head of business. Israel was applauded as someone who knows the district as a resident and longtime educator.
"The [next superintendent] should be able to learn as much from these men as they are able to lead them," Bailey said.
One parent said she was a member of the district since she was 14. She said she was a student leader before becoming a teacher, an administrative employee and a parent of students. She said she is tired of her district getting a bad rap, and wants a superintendent who can bring together all the promising elements that exist in its schools.
"We are a diamond in the ruff for a long time now," she said.
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