Here's why there’s still no curriculum chief at Valley Stream District 13


Valley Stream District 13 is still without an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction following the abrupt Dec. 19 resignation of Fabayo McIntosh. But picking her replacement, or replacements, has proven to be something of a long, bumpy, and controversial process.

Attempts to approve two successors for the role flopped at the district’s board of education meeting on Jan 23. The district’s initial strategy was to recast the assistant superintendent position into two new roles: an Assistant Superintendent for Special Services and an Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology.

Lisa Dunn, the district’s current Executive Director of Special Services, would have been promoted to a new title: Assistant Superintendent for Special Services.


The Takeaway

  • Efforts to replace Fabayo McIntosh with two successors from within the district for the role of assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction failed at a board meeting due to concerns about transparency, qualifications, and community input.
  • Concerns were raised by community members questioning the competence of the proposed candidates to meet the standards of their current roles and the need for more experienced leadership.
  • The district decided to reevaluate its strategy, initiating a deliberate search for outside talent to fill the original assistant superintendent role with plans to have a replacement by March 26.

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Andrea DiMango, the district’s Director of Technology, would take on an expanded role as Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology.

In a statement, the district stood by the superintendent’s recommendations and argued that hiring from within has its advantages including: “familiarity with the district’s staff and students, an understanding of school culture and community, and a boost of motivation and morale to the district’s professional staff.”


Board backlash stalls replacement

Trustees Anthony Grosso, Anthony Bonelli, and Vincent Caposio, nevertheless, stood in stiff opposition, expressing deep reservations about the transparency of the hiring process, and questioning whether the candidates were sufficiently qualified.

“I am a believer in hiring the best and most qualified candidate for the job, and though I would always like to hire from within, I just felt unilaterally deciding on this size took away the voice of the community,” said Grosso in a statement.

“When it comes to these high-level positions, previous vacancies were filled by forming committees with teachers, administrators, and parents who came together, asked questions, and shared what qualities they saw as important to the district’s vision. That is I believe the best option.”

The district argues that “given that the initial recommendation centered around in-district staff members, the vetting of these individuals had already been done at the time of their initial hire, both of which were approved by the Board.”

The board ultimately has the final say “in accepting or rejecting the Superintendent’s hiring recommendations,” noted the district. “In this case, the Board decided it wanted to go in a different direction.”

The trio of trustees weren’t the only ones who objected to the district’s picks at the board meeting.

“My son is in an integrated co-teaching kindergarten class at Willow Road, (where students with disabilities and those without learn together) and he tells me his classes are being continuously disrupted because of students’ outbursts,” parent Rossella Pecora told the board, claiming Dunn, who oversees the program, has yet to acknowledge or address the problem.

“With Ms. Dunn’s promotion, I’m sure it comes with a lot more responsibility. What exactly does this promotion mean when the basics of her current position aren’t being met.” 

“Although this consolidation of titles saves money, I cannot believe this was something that was given serious thought,” resident Janet Minuto told board members. “In my opinion, a curriculum coordinator is extremely important to children’s academic success. This is someone who should have many years of proven success evaluating programs to give our children the best education possible.”

Board Vice President Gerardo Cavaliere, showing noticeable hesitation, opted not to cast a vote on the proposed candidates, and instead motioned to postpone, which board members approved.

Trustee Bonelli said the decision was an “unacceptable” rehashing of roles “never before seen by the district” which does more to “diminish” the title of the curriculum coordinator than uphold it.


What's next?

The district’s fast-track efforts to combine existing roles and promote from within to fill gaps in leadership are not without precedents. When the district’s ELA instructional coach, Cindy Gervasi, was tapped to take over as Willow Road Principal, noted Superintendent Judith LaRocca in an email to parents, she left a vacuum “in responsibilities for supporting district literacy and the prekindergarten program where she was the coordinator.

“To that end, the ELA instructional coach position and the prekindergarten coordination was combined into a Coordinator of Early Learning and Literacy position.”

January’s backlash seemed to have led the district to shelve its plans to reshape and redefine the assistant superintendent role. LaRocca made clear that a deliberate search for outside talent to fill the original job title is now underway. This month, district officials are paging through resumes and conducting interviews with prospects, according to the superintendent’s projected timeline of the hiring process.

In a nod to concerns over community input, parents were invited to serve as members of the district’s “advisory interview committee” earlier this month for the first round of job interviews. The district aims to have a replacement by March 26 with that person’s official start date anywhere between April 2 and May 1.

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