Harris One of Two Superintendent Finalists in S. Huntington Search

School district to announce final choice next week.

The South Huntington school district has narrowed its superintendent search to two finalists — one being Jacqueline Harris, the current superintendent of student services.

At a meet the candidates forum Thursday at the , school board trustee Ed Nitkewicz, up for re-election, made the announcement when asked if any safeguards are in place in the search for the best possible replacement for outgoing superintendent Thomas Shea.

Nitkewicz said school board members recently met with 12 candidates over the course of two days.

"Where we are at now is we have two finalists and I'm privileged to say that one of the finalists is sitting in this room ... Jackie Harris," said Nitkewicz, at the NAACP-sponsored event.

Harris has helped reshape special education in South Huntington, according to Nitkewicz.

"Jackie Harris is not a finalist because she is black," said Nitkewicz. "Jackie Harris is a finalist because she is an outstanding educator." 

The name of the other finalist was not given. School board president Jim Kaden told Patch an announcement will be made next week regarding the final choice.

Shea announced in September that he planned to retire after 14 years in the district. He has served as superintendent since 2003.

joey May 11, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Agreed...also think Harborfields has had a successful time with 1/2 day kindergarten...if this candidate is from Harborfields that gives the BOE credibility next year to present a program of 1/2 day. I truly believe to pass the budget they needed to keep Kindergarten full day this year but next year we are right back at cutting the budget.
Marie May 11, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Ms. Harris is a dedicated professional and is resourceful in her current role. But the job of superintendent of a district faced with major financial challenges is not one I see her able to fulfill. We need someone with greater finance and constituency management skills. We need someone with no to the status quo. Meeting 12 candidates in 2 days for the most important role in our district seems rushed. Look harder, look further and get us a superwoman/man because that is what we will need. Given the salary we should be able to attract a superior candidate for this critical job. Besides, don't we need Ms. Harris in her current role to support the incoming superintendent?
Al May 11, 2012 at 03:16 PM
What South Huntington needs now is a strong leader that we can feel confident about rally behind. These are difficult times and Jackie Harris is not that leader. Nothing personally against her, she may be very good at her current position but she is not a leader. In addition someone from the outside will be much more likely to have community support than an internal candidate who the community feels is not up to the task. The external candidate is a good one and I hope we grab him while we can but if the BOE does not agree I hope they name an interim and keep looking!
Al May 11, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Well said Marie, agreed
B. Ware May 11, 2012 at 03:52 PM
As a life long resident, parent and educator, I find it appalling that the board has narrowed the search to the two current finalists. There is significant controversy with both candidates. There is something to be said for bringing in an outside candidate with new ideas and a clear vision in these very troubling educational times. However, a sitting high school principal with no assistant superintendent experience is not the strength we need. South Huntington deserves better then the current 4-3 split vote on the board. It deserves the search be reopened and a true educational leader be found. One that exemplifies character . . . .
stan linden May 11, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Thats right, lets continue placing the same grroup of people in power who get the district into the problems they have. We need new blood from outsidwe that has not been tainted by the present decision makers in the system. Time for a new approach and some new ideas.
stan linden May 11, 2012 at 05:05 PM
They should be ashamed for looking at anyone presently on staff. We need a real unbiased search that is not based on political correctness or in house politics. It is our tax money and we deserve better then someone who gets the job because its their turn or they won`t rock the boat.
Robert W May 11, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Character something this board and admin seem to be lacking
S. Creek May 12, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Isn't it ironic that the board has sought no input from the community? Where is the partnership and community involvement that they purport to want. At meetings they let the "voices" be heard, sometimes way over the edge. So why, with this important decision, was a committee not established with constituents representing the diversity of this community? I believe the board's pat answer will be, "Well, we were elected to represent the people of the SHUFSD." You have committees for every other issue, event, etc. that takes place. Why not this one? Shame on you!
Joe May 14, 2012 at 01:11 PM
This really shouldn't be a suprise to anyone...it's been in the works since last year after Polansky left. And Polansky didn't leave SH because Shea didn't retire last year. Polansky left SH because Kaden said that he wouldn't back him to replace Shea. Polansky would have stayed this year but Kaden told him to take the Huntington Super job. Isn't that nice? If that doesn't show you that your BOE Pres doesn't have the district's best interests in mind, the I don't know what will. All Kaden wants is someone he can control. I'm still shocked at how Kaden was re-elected.
Concerned SHParent May 14, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Unreal, to even have to make the comment "Jackie Harris is not a finalist because she is black,", says something. I could care less what the race, gender, ethnicity, etc of the next superintendent is, but to make that comment shows that unfortunately is probably playing a part. If she is most qualified then she will get the support, we live in a diverse community, I do not believe that would be an issue. I strongly believe that she is not the person to represent our district for the next few years. We need a strong leader who is open to change and willing to put the district first. They need to be well spoken and logical and be able to look at things from a variety of positions. If we do not have an appropriate, almost perfect candidate, I say dont just take someone because the slot is open. The Harborfields principal is fantastic, done a great job in that school, and has the respect of his district, similar to that of Polansky. Maybe thats the problem.
Jim R. May 14, 2012 at 08:28 PM
We need to get Kaden out of office. When is his term up? Their needs to be a serious campaign involving social media, increased signage, advertising on news sites, etc. to get him out.
Bill L. May 14, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Unfortunately people are like mindless drones when it comes to voting in new BOE members and they select by name recognition. He was re-elected last year and will be in until 2014.
Concerned Citizen May 15, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Half day kindergarten would result in bigger problems than you realize. Wish it was as simple as you think it is.
Big_E May 15, 2012 at 10:10 AM
I'd like to know what the proposed salary will be. Dr. Shea made $331,000 in 2011. Governor Cuomo reported a salary of $168,848 on his 2011 taxes. (http://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/cuomo-tax-return-reports-183g-in-income-1.3667230) Sorry, but the superintendent of the SHUFSD should NOT need a salary twice that of our governor!
Kirstin May 15, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Agreed, Janet. I strongly believe that our district needs someone from the outside to step into the role of Superintendent. Preferably someone with a strong financial background who is willing to really scrutinize each and every item in the budget and who is able to catch the mistakes made by our current asst. super of business BEFORE they are presented to the public at the annual budget presentations.
Kirstin May 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Why did Ed Nitkewicz only disclose the internal candidate for superintendent??? Who is the external candidate for superintendent and just when will the public be privy to that information???
Catherine G May 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Agree - please reopen and don't rush - this is a very critical job for the future of our district.
SHSD_NeedsChange May 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I find it hard to believe that in the current economy, these two candidates are our strongest contenders. Many districts are seeking out experienced superintendents that are looking to shave down the number of administrators and keep everyone accountable. The school board and the district need to make themselves much more transparent to the public. It was an excellent idea that the community have been made a greater part of the superintendent search process. It would have said something about them if they had done so. The elitist attitude that because they were elected means they don't have transparency is ridiculous. And finally, Mr. Nitkewicz's comment that they did not choose Ms. Harris as one of the final candidates because she is black is insulting to the community. Does he really think that is what we believe? If her credentials were so stellar he should not have felt the need to defend himself with that comment. I found it inappropriate. I'm also not sure why Mr. Kaden as board president isn't communicating with the community about the current status of the superintendent search. We are a large community and things will only change if we get involved and press answers to questions and force the issue of transparency. South Huntington has proven that it needs a change and an injection of new ideas, new goals, and new blood. Everyone get out there and vote today!
concerned parent May 15, 2012 at 01:35 PM
I find it rather disturbing that the worst kept secret in the district regarding the final candidates for the superintendent search were announced at the added met the candidates meeting when in fact the BOE was asked two days prior where they were with their search. The only thing announced at the BOE meeting on Tuesday was that they still had not made a decision and would not reveal who their final selections were. The rumor mill has been swirling with the final two names for at least the past 3 weeks or so. What's even more appalling is that rumor has it the decision had been made weeks ago and is not being announced until after the budget vote for fear the budget will be defeated if the new superintendent is revealed too soon. I have nothing against Jackie Harris but feel the district needs to bring in someone from the outside and we need change and a new direction. Help support change and vote for Mrs. LaCara and Mrs. DeGaetano.
Jim R. May 15, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Maybe they can't announce the other candidate because they are employed by another district at the time?
concerned parent May 15, 2012 at 05:26 PM
As I said, the rumor mill has been swirling, its the worst kept secret in the district, everyone knows who both candidates are.
Sam May 18, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Jackie Harris makes my skin crawl. If you think assessed valuation is a problem, just wait until she gets the job. Start selling your houses now. Neighbors are talking... And yes, the budget would probably have gone down... That is how strongly the community feels about this.
Diane June 02, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Looks like Jackie Harris will not be the leader......We have the principal of harborfields after all......Smart move
Robert W June 02, 2012 at 04:04 PM
A principal with NO admin experience?? This is the best they could do?
Janet June 02, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Ridiculous, let their school move them up to Asst. Super and then come to us...seems like they might be easily intimidated...and it will be suggested how to do things rather than come with fresh ideas...we can hope tho....Don't understand why the public doesn't get more say in this all important position in OUR district...
Ron June 02, 2012 at 04:44 PM
We knew all along that there was no chance of Kaden relinquishing control of the district to an African-American woman. No way.No how. Bennardo will play the perfect role of Pinocchio for this BOE.
Diane June 02, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I would not be too sure of him being a puppet. I have heard great things about him. The were many letters written objecting to Jackie Harris. Perhaps the people did have a voice. Perhaps we may be able to get rid of the expensive dead weight that currently exists in our administration.
IJCB June 03, 2012 at 02:49 AM
From your mouth to God's ears.......
Chris P. June 04, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I have had the chance to work for several years for Dave Bennardo while I worked as a teacher in Harborfields. I can tell you that Dave is no puppet, and I am delighted that he was chosen for this position. I can't think of a more deserving candidate and one that I am thrilled will be in charge of my children's education for years to come. Dave is tough but fair, a charismatic leader, and someone who truly connected with his students. He turned Harborfields High School around and in the process it became a top-ranked HS in Suffolk County, according to US News and World Report. A lot of that success I attribute to Dave's leadership.


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