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Veteran administrator takes the reins of Central Islip schools

Sharon A. Dungee, Central Islip School District's new

Sharon A. Dungee, Central Islip School District's new superintendent. Credit: Central Islip School District

A veteran Central Islip school administrator will take over as superintendent of the 7,500-student district on July 1, the system has announced.

Sharon Dungee, now the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, steps into the top school role in what she describes as a "very diverse, very proud community." She succeeds Howard Koenig, who has served nearly 15 years as superintendent in three separate stints, and who is also one of Long Island's leading advocates of greater state funding for districts of low wealth. 

Dungee began her educational career as an elementary teacher in Brentwood, then transferred to Central Islip where she worked 20 years in a succession of administrative posts including assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent. She was tapped in May for the superintendency, with a $245,000 annual salary.

The new schools chief lives in Central Islip with her husband and three children.

"Guided by our school district's mission, we will work to accomplish exciting milestones that lie ahead in the best interest of our very diverse, very proud community," Dungee said in a prepared statement. 

Central Islip's system consists of six elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. The system takes pride in its community support, saying that spending proposals have won voter backing the past 14 years. Last week, a $220.4 million budget for the 2020-21 school year passed handily, 1,614-597.

Some students struggle academically, however. The state Education Department lists Central Islip as a "target" district, based on 2018-19 performance, meaning the district requires scholastic improvement. 

Norman Wagner, the school-board president, said Dungee had shown a unique ability to work "collegiately" with district employees and community members.

"Her educational experience, coupled with her unwavering commitment to the Central Islip School District and the community it serves, make her an asset to our children and the education we are charged with providing," Wagner stated. 

Koenig, the current superintendent, told Newsday he planned to "take a breath," after a career stretching back to the late 1960s. He started as an intermediate-school teacher in Corona, Queens, and eventually held a series of high district posts in Central Islip, East Meadow, Harborfields and South Country.

Koenig holds the unusual distinction of running Central Islip schools three times: 1991-2000, 2007-2008, and from 2016 to the present. He also served a decade as executive director of REFIT, a nonprofit group that lobbies on behalf of poorer school systems for more state money.

From that vantage point, Koenig has observed up close the challenges faced by school districts serving low-income families. Like many colleagues, he sees potential trouble ahead, if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cuts state school aid by 20%, as he says he might. 

The problem, Koenig noted, is that poor districts depend far more than rich districts on state assistance as a source of revenue. Thus, any across-the-board reductions would cut deepest in the poorest districts. 

"If the state decides, 'Hey, we have to make reductions and to treat all districts alike,' that is the most unfair thing they could do," Koenig said.

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