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Sachem school district names new superintendent

Kenneth E. Graham addresses the crowd at the

Kenneth E. Graham addresses the crowd at the Sachem school board meeting on April 13, 2016, after he was named the system's new superintendent. Graham will succeed Superintendent James Nolan, who is retiring July 1. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Kenneth E. Graham, an assistant superintendent in the Long Beach school system, was named the Sachem district’s new leader at a school board meeting this week.

Graham, 43, will succeed Superintendent James Nolan on July 1 with a starting yearly salary of $230,000, district officials said.

“I’m proud to be a Sachem arrow,” Graham told an audience of more than 100 parents, students and others after trustees unanimously approved his selection Wednesday night. The district’s emblem is a flaming arrow.

Nolan, 55, has served as schools chief since December 2009 and last June announced he would retire at the end of his four-year contract. His yearly salary is $244,000.

Sachem is Long Island’s second-largest district, with 13,950 students. It straddles the borders of three Suffolk County towns — Brookhaven, Smithtown and Islip.

Graham has served since 2013 as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Long Beach. Before that, he spent nearly 20 years as a science teacher, science director and track coach in the same district.

He holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy from Fordham University, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in earth and space science at Stony Brook University.

Board trustees, who received applications from about 25 candidates, said they were particularly impressed with Graham’s academic background and the fact that he’s working in a district that has the International Baccalaureate program. That program, often called IB, provides coursework at an advanced level, coupled with exams scored by experts around the world for students in the last two years of high school.

“He’s young, he’s very academic,” said Tony Falco, a longtime Sachem board member and current president. “That’s where the district and the board are looking to make any improvements we can. We’re not dissatisfied with what we have now, but we want to move on to the next level.”

Falco said the board was not committed to a future IB program or other specific instructional approach but would discuss such options.

He added that Graham already presented the board with a plan for the first 100 days of his administration during the 2016-17 school year, but declined to discuss details, saying trustees had not yet had an opportunity to review it.

Another Sachem goal, outlined at Wednesday’s meeting, is to rebuild district financial reserves depleted as a result of the national economic downturn of 2008. The system’s unallocated reserves, often known as “rainy day” funds, were listed at a miniscule $16,000 in July, at the beginning of the 2015-16 budget year.

Falco said the district hopes to build those reserves to a modest level of between $2 million and $3 million by July and to $5 million the following year. Sachem’s total current budget is about $296 million.

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