Syosset hires former Great Neck schools chief

Syosset School District's new superintendent Dr. Ronald L.

Syosset School District's new superintendent Dr. Ronald L. Friedman. (Aug. 27, 2013) (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein)

Former Great Neck school Superintendent Ronald L. Friedman was named the Syosset district's interim leader Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the school board, replacing longtime chief Carole Hankin.

The board, which has been meeting for weeks to search for a superintendent after Hankin submitted her resignation last month, said Friedman will take the post starting Wednesday.

He will be superintendent until June 30, 2014, when the district hopes to have a permanent replacement. The school board already has hired a search firm.


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Friedman, 68, a Huntington Village resident, led the Great Neck schools -- among Long Island's premier districts -- from 2004 to 2009. He also was superintendent of schools in Long Beach, and is a former president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.

Under the interim arrangement he will earn $1 per day until Jan. 1, when he will be paid about $20,000 per month, the median salary for superintendents in Nassau County.

"We are absolutely thrilled," board president Michael Cohen said after the vote. "He's got tremendous experience in districts similar to Syosset."

Cohen said Friedman is an expert in teacher evaluation plans, known as APPR, and is "a personable, humble fellow."

Friedman, asked why he chose to come out of retirement to take the post temporarily, credited school board members.

"When I met them, I said they were just lovely people, people who wanted to do the best for the community and for kids," he said.

Since leaving Great Neck schools, he has studied at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, with a focus on mediation and arbitration. He has worked as a consultant on human resources and other management issues for schools on Long Island and in Westchester County.

Syosset, an award-winning district, has about 6,500 students in 10 schools.

"It was an easy pick," board member Susan Parker said. "He is very personable, visible and knowledgeable. He has the qualities we are looking for."

The controversial Hankin, credited for her strong leadership but criticized by some for her high pay and close-to-the-vest management style, had led the district for 23 years.

While she has been praised for bolstering the district's academic offerings, her pay drew criticism from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who in 2011 cited it as an example of wasteful spending.

Hankin's total annual earnings are about $506,000, including $405,244 in salary. She was the second-highest-paid superintendent in the state, according to the state Education Department's latest figures.

News of her imminent departure came as a surprise and on the heels of public sparring with trustee Joshua Lafazan, a high school senior when he was elected to the board in 2012. Lafazan has called for more transparency and inclusion of the public in district meetings.

Of Friedman, Lafazan said at Tuesday night's meeting: "He is an open book. Dr. Friedman prioritizes being available to the community, a trait that I admire."

In announcing her resignation, Hankin, 71, said in a statement that she would stay on until Oct. 31. She said she was resigning for the purpose of retirement and that she will be "writing a book for parents on the inside story of suburban public schools."

At Tuesday's meeting, Cohen said Hankin's final days in the district will be Thursday for a superintendent's conference day, and Tuesday, the first day of school.

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