The official announcement has been made: Dr. Kenneth A. Card Jr., superintendent of the East Meadow School District, is retiring. Many of us have known for some time, but that doesn’t minimize the impact of this announcement on those who had the honor of working for him. Talented, ethical leaders are rare, even more so in our current paradigm of notoriety over substance.
I wish Dr. Card success and happiness in his retirement; this point in time for him was well earned. He has changed the lives of so many during his time as an educator, and later as an educational leader, and I am proud to consider myself part of that fortunate group.
Over the past five years, I have watched and learned as Dr. Card advocated for us to express our better angels. Not enough of us did. That falls on us, not him, as we too frequently gazed nostalgically on a glorious past that wasn’t so glorious for all of our citizens. He knew better; we did not.
The coronavirus pandemic interrupted a superintendency that was just about to soar. A superintendent was poised to be a transformational curriculum and instruction leader. Right before the impact of Covid-19, I saw a leader ready to meet the moment and bring our district to a better place educationally. One of the many tragedies of the pandemic was the failure to seize this opportunity to focus on this core area.
Instead, our leader was thrust into a period of strife and great fear. While this wasn’t the role he desired for his superintendency, he met the moment, and became an outstanding navigator of our troubled waters. That is what great leaders do — they meet the moment, even if the moment is one that was not part of their design.
Even with daunting challenges, Dr. Card still moved the needle for our district: the one-to-one technology initiative; Integrated Co-Taught; the establishment of a pre-K program; an increase in district security personnel; the expansion of the bond to address athletic needs, and so many other areas that positively impacted students. All of this was accomplished while he dealt with the many calamities of the unprecedented pandemic and generational political strife. Fiscally, our future remained secure, which is attributable to Dr. Card’s wise approach of implementing initiatives via sound budgetary practices.
Most residents don’t know this, but when higher powers of government closed us down and we went home to a remote environment, Dr. Card was constantly trying to find the best way to protect our children. He did this by being physically present, at significant risk to himself, and perpetually deeply engaged in research at a time when many of us were at home, spraying the bags delivered by a local grocery store.
Dr. Card always had time to check on the work being done to help those in need in our community through our food and grocery distributions, which were supported by so many. He also took time to acknowledge the front-line district workers who kept these support services going.
While most of us were dealing with the isolation in our remote environments, he was working tirelessly. There were so many challenges at the time for superintendents that our community didn’t fully appreciate, because his focus was only on moving forward, not on sharing the gigantic weight he carried for us.
Perhaps we should reflect on what we went through together and the positive impact Dr. Card made. He did all he could, and examined every opportunity that could have a positive impact on kids. In retrospect, he was right far more often than was ever acknowledged.
As an administrator, I fully appreciated his work during the pandemic. He was the best person to lead us during that time. As the parent of a district student, I was always confident that my son’s safety and education were carefully considered under Dr. Card’s leadership.
My only regret is that his time with us was so short, while the possibilities under his leadership were so great. Those who know the truth appreciate the work he did, the guidance he shared and the dignity he provided to the superintendency in East Meadow.
Dr. Patrick Pizzo is the assistant superintendent for business and finance in the East Meadow School District and the president of Equity 4 LI Youth.