James W. Polansky was named superintendent of the Monday night, succeeding John J. Finello, who is retiring after 39 years in the district.
Trustee Richard McGrath presented Finello with a plaque for his long dedication to Huntington schools, saying that his 10-year term as superintendent was one of the longest in the district's history.
Polansky, assistant superintendent for personnel and district services in the district, will take on his new role in the 4,500-student system July 1.
“I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work,” Polansky told the crowd. “I look forward to working with the entire school community.”
Before becoming an assistant superintendent last August, he served as principal of for more than six years and was named New York State’s high school principal of the year in 2010.
The popular educator leaves behind a larger school district of more than 6,000 students for the challenges of leading Huntington at a time of serious budget constraints and controversy over the future of Jack Abrams Intermediate School as well as state performance assessments of two schools.
He is a familiar figure at Whitman, where parents, staff and students frequently comment on his apparent inability to miss a single after-school or weekend school event.
The Huntington school board launched search for Finello’s successor last fall, enlisting the help of Western Suffolk BOCES to help manage the effort.
While Finello’s salary for the current year was $266,629, the board voted in March to trim the salary of his successor to $200,000.
The board also said farewell to two members at the last meeting of their terms, board president Bill Dwyer and trustee Christine Bene. The two newly elected trustees, Jen Hebert and Adam Spector, sat with the board Monday night but did not vote.
Bene, speaking with emotion, talked about her long involvement in the district as a parent before becoming a trustee, and wished the two incoming trustees good luck.
Dwyer, alluding to some of the anger that spilled out at earlier board meetings, said, "I much prefer listening to people’s opinions than the alternatives of people not caring about their children’s education.
"I ask the community to give Mr. Polansky 100 percent of their support. You will find him to be anexceptional person who will lead us into the future.
After wishing the new trustees well, Dwyer said, "I will end it by quoting Dewey Cox-- 'It’s been a wonderful ride, I'm coming home'.”
Finello, a 1968 graduate, returned to the district in 1972 to teach at Huntington Elementary School, and later became principal of Washington Elementary School. In 2000, he was named assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and became district superintendent in 2001.
Last year, the Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education gave Finello its Spirit Award for his nearly four decades of service. He is an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University.