Robert R. Dillon, a 40-year education veteran with broad experience as a school administrator and regional advocate for needy districts, is slated to take over Nassau County BOCES, the agency announced Friday.
Dillon, 64, said Thursday he wants to "bring some common sense to the Common Core debate" in his new post. He is scheduled to step into the superintendent's job on Sept. 1, following expected approval by the State Education Department and formal appointment by the BOCES board, officials said.
As chief of the Nassau BOCES system -- the biggest of its type in the state -- Dillon will deal with vexing educational issues out of Albany as well as local controversies revolving around tight school budgets.
BOCES superintendents act as regional troubleshooters for the State Education Department in addition to being top administrators of their own regional agencies.
Dillon lived up to his reputation as an outspoken advocate during a Newsday interview by directly addressing growing opposition to Common Core standardized testing, one of the state's touchiest education topics.
"I'm hoping my experience in 24 years as a superintendent can bring something to BOCES," he said. "People are upset. They want local control, and they don't want the sense that their kids are being compromised."
Dillon, who began his career as a special education teacher in New York City schools in 1975, served as the Eastport district's superintendent from 1992 to 1999 and as East Meadow's chief from 1999 to 2007. In Eastport, he helped initiate that district's merger with neighboring South Manor, one of the most successful school-system consolidations in recent state history.
Currently, he is executive director of REFIT, a nonprofit advocacy group representing 30 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties with low property wealth. He holds a similar position with the Mid-Hudson School Study Council, representing districts in seven upstate counties.
"He speaks his mind," said a colleague, Kishore Kuncham, superintendent of Freeport schools and first vice president of REFIT, which stands for Reform Educational Financial Inequities Today. "I think the Nassau region and all the superintendents will be well-served with Bob as our voice."
Nassau County's Board of Cooperative Educational Services is the largest of 37 such regional agencies across the state. Like other BOCES, it provides services to local districts that include occupational and special education courses, as well as technical support.
Nassau BOCES, based in Garden City, maintains more than 20 school and office sites across the county, with an annual budget of more than $300 million and a full-time staff of 2,500.
The permanent superintendent's slot has been vacant since July 2014, when the former chief, Thomas Rogers, took a new job as the Syosset district's superintendent.
Dillon's annual salary as the new BOCES superintendent will be $168,000 -- substantially less than the $200,000-plus compensations paid to most district superintendents in Nassau and the western portion of Suffolk County.
The pay discrepancy is due to a cap imposed on salaries of all BOCES superintendents statewide in 1993. The State Legislature took that punitive measure after a payout scandal involving a former BOCES chief in western Suffolk.
BOCES districts in downstate New York have complained that the cap makes it difficult to recruit experienced leaders, especially because the state's restrictions also drastically limit vacation time. Dillon, for example, will be allotted 12 vacation days during the coming school year.
Eric Schultz of Plainview, president of the Nassau BOCES board, who announced the upcoming appointment, said he was happily surprised to discover that his agency had attracted Dillon and several other well-qualified candidates.
"In a sense, we got lucky," Schultz said. "We understand that Bob is going to approach the position with an eye toward what we're doing now, where he believes we can improve, and lead us forward."