After eight years of service with the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lorna Lewis announced last month that she will be retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Lewis was appointed superintendent in 2012 after serving five years as superintendent of the East Williston Union Free School District. Prior to that, Lewis served as deputy superintendent in the Three Village Central School District.
“Dr. Lewis’ dedication to this district has helped to build the foundation for a bright and flourishing future,” said Debbie Bernstein, the district’s board of education president, in a statement to the Herald. “The Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District has a tradition of exceptional achievement, and Dr. Lewis’ ability to spearhead innovative programs has largely contributed to making our district one of the highest-ranked districts in the state. Along with being the first woman of color to be president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, Dr. Lewis has also been an active past-president of the Long Island Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (LIASCD) and a supporter of various diversity groups.”
As for where the district goes from here, the board of education recently announced that it has engaged in a search process for the next superintendent. District Wise Search Consultants, a Woodbury-based firm with a combined 40 years in staffing and education, will be spearheading the search process.
“Right now, we are in the process of meeting with all of the constituents and getting feedback from them about what is important to have in a superintendent,” said consultant Joann Kaplan, who is an educator from the Roslyn School District. “I think that’s crucial in any of the searches that we do. We don’t just go out and find someone to fill the position. We try to find the right fit.”
Kaplan and business partner Bob Freier have beeen interviewing various groups involved in the district, including the board, the PTA and student government.
But residents of Plainview and Old Bethpage can let their voices be heard by District Wise Search. The firm will be hosting a community forum on Thursday, Nov. 7, that will be open to all community members at 7 p.m. in the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School Cafeteria. The forum will help the district’s search firm gather perceptions and receive input on the qualities community members would like to see in the district’s next leader.
“We’ll be breaking the forum into groups and having an ice breaker-type scenario where each groups comes up with and brainstorms different characteristics that are important in a superintendent,” said Kaplan. “We give out handouts and we help them with descriptive words. After a half hour, we will reconvene and ask a person from each group to read the top three most important qualities. What’s really amazing is that they all end up having similar answers.”
Those who are unable to attend the forum can reach out to the firm with their own suggestions by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm will be collecting feedback from the community and will formulate questions for prospective candidates to answer based on what residents would like to see in a superintendent.
“We do a lot of screening,” said Kaplan. “We give candidates a packet of generic questions that are important to ask perspective candidates, but also questions that echoes the concerns of the community members. What’s really special about Plainview-Old Bethpage is that the district is the fiber of the community and that it is really family-based. Everybody really cares about each other. Aside from the academics, that will give candidate a feel for who these people are.”
District Wise Search has received praise from many members in the academic community, include administrative members of districts such as Sachem Central, Seaford, East Williston, Babylon, Great Neck and more. Lewis has a connection to the firm as well as she serves on their advisory board.
“We work really closely with our clients,” said Kaplan. “There are no surprises and they get weekly updates on absolutely everything that is happening. The board has been incredibly supportive and they ask a lot of questions. This is the biggest job the board of education has but they really care about their community. The voices of the constituents are important to those at the board.”
The board intends to finalize the selection of the next superintendent by the spring, according to a district press release, with an official start date effective July 1. This timeline would allow for a smooth transition.
For more information on the school district’s search, visit www.pobschools.org.