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Editorial: Sad revolving door in Wyandanch school district

Intrim Superintendent Mary Jones in front of the

Intrim Superintendent Mary Jones in front of the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Elementary School in Wyandanch. Credit: Richard Slattery, 2009

The turmoil never ends in the Wyandanch school district. Control of the board of trustees seems to change with every May election and a new round of hirings and firings begins anew. The dysfunction is part of the culture and it stymies any chance at real academic progress in one of Long Island's poorest performing school districts. The latest change was the recent ousting of Superintendent Pless Dickerson. He was replaced on an interim basis by an assistant superintendent, Mary Jones, who previously was superintendent before being replaced by -- you guessed it -- Dickerson four years ago. In fact, Wyandanch has had three superintendents serving four terms in the past six years -- all still on the district's payroll -- with yet another apparently on the way.

Dickerson's removal has not been explained. There's an ongoing internal investigation underway, but the move remains suspect if only because the revolving cast of board members for years has treated the district -- the major employer in an economically distressed community -- like a job bank for friends and family. Five years ago, in what seemed a remarkable sea change, the district approved a strict anti-nepotism policy. It was too good to be believed; the district later repealed the policy. It was business as usual, again.

The madness must stop.

Wyandanch must find a credible educator with no ties to anyone on the board, and let him or her do the job. Wyandanch's children deserve that much.

The massive Wyandanch Rising redevelopment project has the potential to stem the community's decline and reverse its fortunes, but Wyandanch will never rise if its school system does not improve. That, sadly, does not seem to be happening. Millions of dollars of investment in Wyandanch's future will go to waste if the school board keeps repeating its unfortunate history.