Putting forth an operating budget for each school year is one of the biggest responsibilities for a school board. Perhaps the biggest is hiring a superintendent of schools. The West Islip School Board put forth a budget for the 2010-2011 school year that was passed by residents in May and they also recently hired a new superintendent of schools.
Richard Simon will take over for Dr. Beth Virginia Blau, who is retiring at the end of next month after nine years as superintendent. On Tuesday evening, the West Islip School District had a "Meet and Greet" with the new superintendent at the district's administration building to give the community a chance to meet West Islip's new school chief.
Simon, who lives in Nassau County, comes to West Islip after two years in the Cold Spring Harbor School District, where he served as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. Prior to that, he served as the principal of The Wheatley School in Old Westbury for 13 years.
"It's a very welcoming and warm district," said Simon of West Islip. "It's a community where I think the schools are really at the center. Clearly, the schools are valued."
As a new superintendent, getting to know the district will be the primary focus. Prior to applying for the job, he did some research on West Islip and what he found appealed to him.
"I took a look at the state report card and how students throughout the district at all grade levels were doing. They do extraordinarily well. In talking to my colleagues throughout Long Island, they all had positive things to say about the history and the program in West Islip," said Simon. "Part of my transition this summer will be to really learn the details about all the programs."
One of the programs that will be starting this September is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at West Islip High School. According to the West Islip School District, the program "is designed as an academically challenging and balanced program of education with final examinations that prepares students, usually aged 16 to 19, for success at university and life beyond.
"I think it's wonderful. It's not a common program on Long Island, but it challenges and raises the bar for kids and for staff so I think it's a really good addition."
Simon hopes to build on what West Islip Schools already offers.
"I hope what I'll bring is support of all the positive things that are already going on and just to be someone who helps people work together," he said.
In these challenging fiscal times, school districts and boards of education are being forced to spend taxpayer money more carefully then ever.
"I think it's time that we all have to be collaborative and figure out how we're going to continue to do the best for kids but recognize that resources are very limited. We have to be very careful and thoughtful about how we are going to use our resources," said Simon. "I don't have any set agenda. I want to build on what is certainly a really good district and maintain that and look for places where we can do an even better job."
West Islip Board of Education President Steve Gellar is certain that the school board chose the right person for the job.
"We believe we hired the most qualified candidate. Of course, we are going to miss Dr. Blau greatly, but we're eager to get started with Mr. Simon," he said.
Simon will be starting in West Islip on July 1 as the deputy superintendent and then will start as superintendent on August 1.