Carole Hankin, the second-highest-paid school superintendent in the state, submitted a letter of resignation to the Syosset school board Tuesday night, officials said.
Hankin's forceful leadership style and half-million-dollar compensation package cast a sometimes-unwanted spotlight on her award-winning district. She gets roughly $506,000 in total -- including $405,244 in salary -- and will remain in her post until Oct. 31, 2013.
Hankin has led the Syosset district since July 1990 and is admired by many, though her salary and benefits drew criticism all the way from Albany. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011 cited her pay as an example of wasteful spending and tried to cap superintendent salaries at $175,000.
Under the terms of her current contract, she also gets 45 vacation days a year and is entitled to a late-model district-owned car for personal and professional use in addition to other perks.
Despite the governor's criticism, Hankin persevered, her supporters saying she was worth every penny.
Hankin, stylish and diminutive in dark-framed glasses, put Syosset on the map, they said, winning the district recognition as a Blue Ribbon school for academic excellence.
The 70-year-old superintendent was not present at Tuesday night's meeting. Instead, she delivered the news by letter, board member Josh Lafazan said. It was a complete surprise, he said.
"A letter was sent to the trustees in an envelope designated 'confidential,' " Lafazan said, adding that he and the other trustees voted to accept her resignation.
Board members at the meeting said Hankin had enriched the school environment with arts and other programs.
School board president Michael Cohen said: "It's a wonderful place with incredible parents; many, many kids who really want to thrive, great principals and great teachers. They really enjoy being here and that's part of her legacy."
Hankin had earlier in the day sent the trustees an email saying she would not be able to attend the meeting because of a doctor's appointment.
Lafazan was 18 and a senior at Syosset High School when he was elected to the school board last year.
He was openly critical of Hankin and her salary and fought with her during school board meetings. Their arguments ground some meetings to a halt -- Hankin recently accused Lafazan of lying about her -- with Cohen threatening last year to resign because of the disorder.
"The reason we couldn't do more this year was because of all of the foolishness you've been doing," she told Lafazan before a packed audience at a May meeting. She refused, at that time, to answer questions about her future at the district.
She said in a later interview that she did not ask the district to renew her contract but that she also did not know if she planned to leave the district.
Lafazan said he's grateful for Hankin's service but that it's time for her to move on.
"With the new financial challenges facing all school districts in New York, perhaps this is an opportune time for change and a fresh perspective," he said, adding that the district was successful long before her tenure and would remain so in her absence.
With Joan Gralla