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Superintendent Search A Priority For Katonah-Lewisboro Candidates

Left to right: Candidates Rory Burke, Carmen Delessio, Scott Posner and William Rifkin.
Left to right: Candidates Rory Burke, Carmen Delessio, Scott Posner and William Rifkin. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. -- The four candidates running for two seats on Katonah-Lewisboro’s school board all consider hiring a new superintendent to be a priority.

Weighing in at a candidate forum held last Thursday by the district’s Parent Council, candidates talked about what qualities they would like in a superintendent and how to handle the search process.

The new to fill the top administrative post stems from what was a major news story earlier in the school year: the sudden resignation of Paul Kreutzer in late January. Since then, Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Jumper has filled the post on an interim basis. For the 2014-15 school year, the post will be filled temporarily by John Goetz, who is currently the interim principal for John Jay High School.

Alluding to Kreutzer, candidate Rory Burke noted there was “a lot of controversy” around the previous superintendent. He supports getting someone who has experience in New York State, is a visionary and has a sense of humor. He also wants the community to be involved in the hiring.

“It's critically important,” said fellow candidate Carmen Delessio, who does not want the board to be distracted.

As a positive example, Delessio praised Goetz, and wants someone who can stand up to the school board and explain something clearly. He also is against having the position be a stepping stone and was critical of the quantity of Kreutzer’s prior experience before coming to the district.

“Hopefully we get it right,” said candidate Scott Posner, who does not want another search in three years from now. Posner is concerned about instability at the top, attributing it to people leaving the district. He was also critical of the turnover in the position of the last several years.

Candidate William Rifkin remarked would like to see someone who has worked in a district with labor management issues. He also wants someone who is passionate and who has experienced with a similar district.

Candidates had differing views over how quickly the board should act. Posner cautioned against rushing, citing the possibility of making a wrong hire. Burke, however, expressed an openness to act sooner, citing the superintendent’s role in a district’s vision. Delessio admitted that he wasn’t decided on the pace.

Talk during the forum, which lasted for more than three hours, also turned to the impending closure of Lewisboro Elementary School (LES). Burke and Delessio reaffirmed their opposition to the closure, while Posner and Rifkin supported it. Posner, however, did not like the process, while Rifkin felt that there was miscommunication. A follow up question was then asked about reopening LES. Delessio and Burke support doing so if enrollment goes up, while Posner and Rifkin do not feel that it will be needed.

Other questions at the forum included topics such as class sizes at the middle and high schools, Common Core, special education, technology and communication. Video of the forum is available on the school district’s website.

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