Aspiring School Superintendents Get the Inside Story


Being a school superintendent may just be the toughest job you will ever love. At least that was the sentiment of working superintendents who spoke to a group of aspiring school leaders from across New York on Thursday at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES.

“You are never off duty. There’s an event practically every night,” said Yorktown Superintendent Dr. Ralph Napolitano in his talk, ‘Is the Superintendency for Me?’ “But your ability to make change becomes greater as you move up the ladder. So, if you have a vision of what a district could be, this might be for you.”

Napolitano urged participants to consider what they would be giving up as superintendents as well as what they would be gaining. He also stressed the importance of considering the opinions of spouses and family member because their lives will be affected by the job as well.

The workshop, sponsored by BOCES Center for Educational Leadership and the Leadership for Educational Achievement Foundation, the professional development arm of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, featured talks on the superintendent-board of education relationship, the art of budgeting and the experiences of new superintendents.

BOCES Superintendent Dr. James Ryan welcomed the participants to the workshop and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Allen facilitated the event.

Somers Superintendent Dr. Ray Blanch spoke about the need to align budgeting priorities with the district’s mission and vision so that funds are spent in pursuit of the Board of Education and community’s goals. Croton Harmon Superintendent Dr. Edward Fuhrman spoke about the partnership that exists between the board of education and the district superintendent and the distinct responsibilities each has.

Several newly appointed superintendents spoke about their experiences during a panel discussion facilitated by Ossining Superintendent Ray Sanchez. They were Carmel Superintendent Andy Irvin, Brewster Superintendent Dr. Valerie Henning-Piedmont, Mahopac Superintendent Dr. Dennis Creedon, Peekskill Superintendent Dr. David Fine and Katonah-Lewisboro Superintendent Andrew Selesnick.

“It was a great opportunity for people in the field to have exposure to the real life experiences of superintendents with varied experience themselves as we develop our next steps,” said Kerri Stroka, director of special and alternative education for Orange-Ulster BOCES.

Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Principal Eric Ford said he found the daylong workshop “informative and motivating” in his own career journey.

Jerel Cokley, assistant superintendent of finance for Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Union Free School District, said it was “reassuring to know that there are so many colleagues who share the passion and curiosity of superintendents. It allowed us to walk in their shoes for a day and reflect on whether we are ready for this step.”