2017-07-14 / Front Page

Superintendent says goodbye to district, honored by Hannon

BY RIKKI N. MASSAND

Minutes into the Garden City Board of Education’s July 6 meeting, board members and district administration turned their heads to see State Senator (and Garden City resident) Kemp Hannon walk into the high school library and circle the room. The man who’s served the community and Nassau County for nearly 28 years in the State Senate came out to praise another fixture of Garden City, weeks before he leaves the village for a position in higher education.

Hannon stood in front of the district leaders as well as 30 parents and students assembled for the meeting last Thursday night. He was proud to honor outgoing Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen, who has served in his top position in Garden City Schools since 2005.

“This is for our departing superintendent Dr. Feirsen – it is a legislative resolution that was passed in the state senate, commending him on the success and his retirement after 12 years in Garden City, and having survived 12 years of me! Given the difficulty the state legislature has in being able to do the right thing, we’d always reach out for somebody who has a great sense of what is appropriate and what is good policy, what’s not good policy, what things should change. I have had the privilege of being able to call on Dr. Feirsen and getting some great answers. He is not responsible for me but he is responsible for having given me great advice – thank you very much and best wishes,” Senator Hannon said.

Dr. Feirsen will spend the last week of July helping with the transition and process of integrating the new Interim Superintendent Dr. Alan Groveman, selected Dr. Feirsen’s last day is technically Monday, July 31 and Dr. Groveman will have five days of work in Garden City Schools prior to his official one-year contract term beginning August 1.

School Board President Angela Heineman updated the community on the comprehensive plan to search for a new superintendent of schools. She spoke about the board action at its June meeting to issue an RFP (request for proposals) from search consulting firms “to assist us in the search for a permanent superintendent.”

“That RFP has been distributed and the time period for responses has finished. The board received five responses and on July 19 the board will have a meeting in executive session, as is appropriate, to review those proposals and decide which consultant firms we would like to interview. We will have an update on that in August and again our hope is to have a firm hired before school starts this September,” she said on July 6.

Throughout the start of fall Heineman says the board wants to develop the process and search criteria while keeping Garden City’s community informed. “The expectation and hope is to have our next permanent superintendent in place by July of 2018. In addition in June we hired Dr. Groveman last month after an interview process to be the interim superintendent. He begins officially August 1 but over the last five days of July he will work with Dr. Feirsen and staff on his transition as well as with the PTA, SEPTA and village officials on issues that we’ve been working on together,” she said. Dr. Groveman’s first priorities will include a meeting with Police Commissioner Kenneth Jackson.

Up next for Dr. Feirsen’s career in education is joining NYIT as a faculty member and director of the institute’s Program for School Leadership and Technology. He said in the next few weeks of July he is looking forward to helping with Dr. Groveman’s orientation and making the transition as smooth as possible.

Dr. Feirsen left a lasting impression as he held back tears when he thanked the rest of the Garden City Schools administration, the board and the community. His heavy emotions were evident as his last district meeting unfolded. He spoke about the current process of cleaning up the superintendent’s office and unearthing a 2005 Board of Education special meeting agenda which contained a resolution for his own appointment in GCUFSD. He started with some humor before reflecting on the last dozen years.

“I may have kept it just to make sure it was official back then, in case the board changed its mind. This is my last board meeting and I want to tell you this has been the job of a lifetime. I could not have asked for a better team to work with all through the school district, from faculty, staff the community and the great bright kids that you bring to us year after year. The students are a delight to teach and they inspire us every day. I thank the Board of Education for its support, guidance, wisdom and vision. No one could have asked for a better board of education. Everyone complains about some hidden agendas or ulterior motives among school board trustees – I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that here, everybody puts their agendas aside and we collaborate for the benefit of the school district and well-being of the students. For that I am truly grateful, it is a privilege to have served all of you,” Dr. Feirsen said.

Prior to the farewell comments, Feirsen spoke about Senator Hannon’s support for Garden City Schools through his efforts on two “minor but significant” adjustments for the tax levy cap at the end of the State Senate legislative session in late June.

“One was a motion for capital projects as exclusions to the tax levy cap. The second was to improve tax valuations in our district’s real property growth factor. Every little adjustment helps and the overall impact is showing some signs of being a bit more pliable to changing the tax levy cap requirements. I have not heard that Governor Cuomo has signed those legislative adjustments but I am hopeful he will put his signature on the bills in order for them to become law,” Dr. Feirsen explained.

Before Senator Hannon’s accolades for Dr. Feirsen, President Heineman recognized the rare chance to thank Hannon in person at an appearance at local schools, let alone at a board meeting. She immediately pointed him out to those in attendance and conveyed the district and school board’s appreciation for all his help with pursuing grant opportunities.

“I would like to thank our special guest Sen. Hannon as he has been an incredible supporter of our school district. For the last number of years we’ve been delighted to receive and accept additional state aid that was provided to us at the behest of Sn. Hannon. This year (2017-2018) we received $50,000 and he has been generous for his allocations to Garden City and we have done a number of wonderful things with S.T.E.A.M. curriculum and robotics, security initiatives and the coming elementary-level dance program. While he’s here this evening and because we don’t have him often as he’s so busy in Albany and with other constituencies, I want to take the opportunity to thank him for this support,” Heineman said.

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