Though the school year is not yet underway, the administrative chaos that plagued Springs School toward the end of last year continues.
At a special meeting on Tuesday night, the Springs School Board announced that its current superintendent, Dominic Mucci, would not continue for the 2013-14 school year. Earlier this summer, the New York State Education Department denied a necessary waiver and additional appeals to the state have since stalled.
“It is no secret that recruitment of an experienced part-time superintendent, which is the leadership model we think is most cost-effective and appropriate for our district, is a real challenge,” said Elizabeth Mendelman, the board president, in a statement. “We are disappointed because continuity is important and Dom provided a very steady hand.”
Going forward, Jay Finello, a veteran school official, will take over. His one-year term will expire on Aug. 31, 2014. He last worked as the interim superintendent of the East Islip Union Free School District, a position he held for the past two years. Prior to that, he led the Huntington School District.
Since electing to appoint a part-time superintendent over a full-time one, a cost-saving measure, Springs has had a difficult time securing steady leadership. The board also cited the uniqueness of its location as a further hindrance.
On the administrative front, it has been a tough few months for the district. In May, Katherine Byrnes quickly resigned from her position as assistant principal. Shortly thereafter, the school turned over information to the Testing Integrity Unit of the New York State Education Department concerning a possible testing irregularity related to a recent state assessment. The issue has yet to be resolved.
Because Mr. Mucci is not yet 65 and is officially retired and collecting his pension, his appointment requires the approval of the New York State Education Department since he would earn more than $30,000 a year. The board secured a waiver for the 2012-13 school year, with the hopes of securing a second one for the coming year.
Mr. Finello’s appointment, on the other hand, will not require a waiver from the state, even though he is not yet 65, because the terms of his employment agreement comply with state regulations on earnings for retirees. He will receive approximately $25,000 in the current calendar year and $30,000 come January. The Board has contractually required Mr. Finello to live in East Hampton and is reimbursing him up to $3,000 per month for rental expenses.
Going forward, Mr. Finello, who was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting, will establish a temporary residence in East Hampton. He currently lives in Cold Spring Harbor. “I look forward to enjoying the community of the East End as I serve the Springs School,” Mr. Finello said in a statement released by the school. “I consider this to be a unique opportunity both professionally and personally, and I am grateful to the board for welcoming me to Springs.”
“Many of us are going to miss Dom,” said Margaret Garsetti, an English as a second language teacher. About a dozen audience members filled the school’s library. “It was wonderful to have him for this year and I wish it could be for anther year. Thank you for teaching us and being a great leader.”
Pat Brabant, a parent of three children at the school, also expressed his frustration. “I’m sad to see Dom go. He did a great job and I’m afraid it’s going to happen year after year. I would love to see a permanent person.”
“It would have been great to stick around, but you don’t always get what you want,” said Mr. Mucci, at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting. He was the district’s superintendent from 1999 to 2002. “I was blessed to have this opportunity. It was sort of like leaving your hometown and coming back and getting to see how your kids had grown. It was the strongest group of educators I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my career.”
Mr. Mucci will stay on in the coming weeks until Mr. Finello is up to speed. The position of assistant principal remains unfilled, with the board continuing to interview and vet candidates. In other news, the board announced that the parking lot has been completed and sidewalks have been added time for the start of school on Monday. Additionally, security cameras have been installed to improve student safety. The next regular monthly meeting scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.