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In possible first, 2 LI districts to get 1 superintendent

A student writes out a math problem on

A student writes out a math problem on a chalkboard. Credit: iStock

In what may be a first for Long Island, two North Fork school districts announced Friday that they're seeking to share a superintendent in a move that administrators say will cut costs while expanding opportunities for students.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg is set to head the Greenport and Southold districts under a two-year contract that begins in July 2014.

It struck Greenport school board members as a good idea to tap the talent in their neighboring district when Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda said he would vacate the position a few months ago. The discussions for the shared post began about eight weeks ago.

"We see it as winning twice," said Heather Wolf, president of the Greenport school district's board of education. "Financially first, and it also creates extracurricular and academic opportunities for students."

The move comes as districts across Long Island struggle with rising costs of operation and taxpayer resistance to adopting bigger school budgets.

Observers said it could be the first arrangement of its kind on Long Island.

"I think David [Gamberg] is up to the challenge," said Roberta Gerold, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and superintendent of the Middle Country school district. "If anybody can do it, it's him."

Paulette Ofrias, president of the Southold school district's board of education, said her colleagues know of no other school district on Long Island that has attempted such a maneuver, though they were aware of some jurisdictions upstate that had tried it.

Ofrias considered it a somewhat natural evolution because the districts already have shared expenses with good results.

"It'll streamline any additional shared services we can do in both districts," she said, adding the decision has been received well by both districts' employees and the public.

The two districts are side by side, with Greenport catering to 650 students and Southold serving about 850 students, Gamberg said.

"I'm very excited about it," he said, adding that he once was assistant superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district, which has about 8,000 students. "Both communities should be able to save simply by having one person in a post where there had previously been two. The larger savings may be down the road."

For 2012-13, Gamberg was paid $199,325.20, according to the New York State Teachers' Retirement System. Comanda received $202,112.67 in 2012-13. Both figures may include salary, overtime and various benefits.

The salary for the combined district has not been determined.

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