Search firm to be introduced March 11
The search for a new Westbury Superintendent of Schools has begun. Whoever is chosen will begin a term on July 1, 2021.
On March 5, the district placed ads in publications across the nation. It January, it had submitted a request for proposals for search firms and chose BWP & Associates last month.
On March 11, at its 7:30 p.m. planning meeting (available via videolink) the board will introduce representatives from the firm, who will give a brief presentation and overview of the search process.
Current Superintendent Eudes Budhai’s contract runs out on June 30, 2021.
Last July, in a contentious meeting, the Westbury Board of Education revealed that it had informed Budhai that his contract would not be renewed at the time, but he was welcome to be part of a national search for a new superintendent.
Many spoke passionately that evening in support of Budhai, and criticized board President Robert Troiano Jr. and the board for their treatment of the superintendent.
Troiano argued that the way Budhai was tabbed to succeed Mary Lagnado in March 2017, first on an interim basis, did not earn him a solid mandate. The then-board, in a 4-3 vote, gave Budhai a four-year contract in June 2017. In 2017, the board had promised to conduct a national search to replace Lagnado, but reportedly never followed through before picking Budhai.
“At the time [Budhai] accepted the position as superintendent, he received advice from school board and community members that the legitimacy of his superintendency would always be questioned,” Troiano observed at the meeting. “We believe the circumstances at the time unfairly undermined his authority, potentially negatively impacting the execution of his plans for the district.”
He added, “We believe that Mr. Budhai’s credibility will be enhanced if he is selected by the board [after] a full search process. Any recriminations about the manner in which he was selected will be washed away.”
Troiano continued, “We encourage Mr. Budhai to allow us to consider him as a candidate. And that his full body of work as superintendent will be given consideration, along with the qualifications and experiences of other candidates. In addition to serving the interests of the Westbury School District by ensuring [we hire] the most capable person available at this time, we believe conducting the search will serve Mr. Budhai’s interests as well.”
Troiano told the Westbury Times recently that as part of the process the district “formed focus groups who will provide input to the search firm about the kind of qualities and characteristic they want in a superintendent. Those comments, as well comments collected in an online survey, will be summarized and given to the board as a means of screening the candidates that we decide to go forward with further interviews.”
“Will Mr. Budhai be part of the process?” he was asked.
“We have invited Mr. Budhai to be part of the process. Whether or not he takes us up on that I do not know,” Troiano responded, citing confidentially. Only the search firm knows the identity of the candidates for much of the search process.
“Doesn’t the search process indicate a lack of confidence in Mr. Budhai on the part of the board?” he was asked.
“I don’t think it should,” Troiano replied. “I think the board has an obligation to make sure we got the best leadership in place. That might be Mr. Budhai, and so we’re going to give him the chance to participate in the process if he would like to.”
Back at the July meeting, board member Pedro Quintanilla revealed that he had been opposed to not renewing Budhai’s contract, and criticized Troiano’s justification for holding the special meeting to hear from the public after the board had already acted.
“The statement about wanting to hear what the community has to say sounds hollow,” Quintanilla charged. “We’re here because the community spoke. Because 1,300 people signed the [change.org] petition saying that Mr. Budhai has done a good job and he should stay.”
Troiano pushed back against Quintanilla’s assertion that the public should somehow have been involved in the decision. School boards don’t operate on polling, he said. They are elected by the community to make difficult decisions.
“I expect the support for Mr. Budhai will be on display again once we start the search and people become aware of it. And that will become part of the board’s thinking.”
Troiano observed that he’s been involved in school board politics since 1991, and there was never “an occasion when the board solicited comments from the public before telling a superintendent whether or not it intended to renew his contract. Never. Not one time. And I don’t think any board does that.”
He continued, “The single most important responsibility any board has is the hiring of the superintendent and just as equal, the firing of the superintendent. We operate in this country as a democratic republic. The seven of us members have been elected to the board to represent the people. We are meant to make decision. We are not meant to take polls.”
“Community input is a significant component of the decision in both hiring and firing a superintendent,” Troiano admitted. “But our mandate is larger than that. Our mandate includes evaluating the superintendent based on a wide range of criteria…that the board has to consider. And it’s better positioned than anybody in the community to make those kind of determinations because we work closely with the superintendent. That is why boards don’t solicit polls to determine whether or not more people support the superintendent than not support him.”
In a recent interview, Troiano said there will be up to 18 focus groups to aid in the search, and that each group can have up to 15 members.
Among the groups he cited are high school and middle school students who will be chosen by their respective principals, as well as representatives from the Hispanic and Haitian Creole communities, the Westbury-Carle Place Chamber, Business Improvement District, Westbury Arts Council, Westbury Senior Center and elected officials.
“Each of these groups will have a Zoom call with the search consultants to define the qualifications and criteria they are looking for in a superintendent,” Troiano said. “And again, it may be Mr. Budhai.”
Referring to the outpouring of strong comments in favor of Budhai at the board meeting last July, Troiano commented, “I expect the support for Mr. Budhai will be on display again once we start the search and people become aware of it. And that will become part of the board’s thinking.”
“The way he was chosen, you felt, did not give him the kind of legitimacy that most superintendents receive?” Troiano was asked.
He replied, “A superintendent should always think whether he or she will accept the position without unanimous support from the board of education. And this is something that the search firm we chose has been reiterating to us. It always becomes a difficult situation for a superintendent to accept a position under a 4-3 vote.”
The following is a press release from the district, with some slight modifications.
The Westbury Board of Education has engaged the superintendent search firm, BWP & Associates, to conduct a national search to identify the best qualified superintendent to lead the Westbury School District into the 2021-2022 school year and beyond. BWP & Associates has more than 40 years of nationwide experience in academic executive recruitment with a strong track record of more than 800 successful searches for school districts around the country.
BWP will solicit input from the Westbury community regarding the characteristics and qualifications they desire in a superintendent, market the Westbury opportunity to a diverse pool of potential applicants, recruit prospective candidates, screen and vet applicants in addition to assisting the board in selecting finalists and, ultimately, the most capable superintendent to lead the district starting in July 2021. Information about the process, timeline and how members of the community can provide input as well as periodic updates about the progress of the search can be found in a section of the district’s website dedicated to the superintendent search.
The superintendent search is an outgrowth of a written commitment the Westbury Board of Education made to the Westbury community four years ago to commence a national search, prior to entering into a four-year contract with current superintendent Eudes Budhai. That contract concludes at the end of this school year. The current Westbury Board of Education has opted to take this opportunity to fulfill the promise made by the previous board to conduct a nationwide search. The Westbury Board of Education has invited Budhai to be a candidate in this process.
The board is confident that conducting a search, which hasn’t been done in Westbury for more than 20 years, will ensure it is putting students, staff and the community in the hands of the leader who is best suited to continuing moving the District forward in the years ahead.
“It is our responsibility to regularly evaluate the strategies and personnel we have in place to lead our district to ensure we are well-positioned to meet the evolving needs of our students, staff and community,” said Robert Troiano Jr., president of the Westbury Board of Education. “BWP will partner with the Board of Education, our students, PTAs and other community stakeholders to identify the qualities we want in a superintendent and use that information to select candidates that best satisfy those specifications.”
BWP has been charged with recruiting a highly diverse candidate pool that reflects the board’s commitment to equity and inclusion. BWP itself is a diverse organization, with 50 percent of the partnership represented by women and minorities.
The search firm will make a brief presentation about the search process at the board’s regularly scheduled planning meeting on March 11. Interested stakeholders will be able to provide input to the board about the leadership needs of the district through focus groups later this month led by BWP & Associates as well as through an online survey which will be published in English, Spanish and Haitian-Creole. The information collected will be summarized and presented to the board for its consideration in selecting a superintendent. The information presented to the board will be made available to the public on the district’s website. It is expected that the entire process of choosing a superintendent will be completed by the end of May.
“We are proud to partner with the Westbury School District to conduct an executive search that will identify strong superintendent candidates,” said Dr. Debra A. Hill, managing director of BWP & Associates. “We pride ourselves on maintaining privacy and confidentiality, but it is important to note that this is meant to be an inclusive process. Our team is committed to working with the board, faculty, staff, students, parents, residents and other members of the community to learn more about everyone’s specific needs. We are dedicated to finding a diverse group of excellent candidates for the Board of Education to consider.”
Dr. Kathleen Williams, BWP associate, added, “We have extensive experience working with districts with similar demographics, size and academic needs as Westbury, and, while no two school communities are the same, we are confident in our ability to support Westbury in its efforts to find the right superintendent to lead the district into the future.”
Westbury residents should anticipate receiving invitations to participate in focus groups during the week of March 8 and links to online surveys on March 12, followed by a community meeting on March 23 to solicit input about the qualifications and characteristics wanted in a superintendent.
For more information about the district’s executive search efforts and upcoming opportunities to provide input, visit the district’s website, www.westburyschools.org. The district will also post updated information on the district’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WestburySchoolDistrict.
Many people could not get into the school as there was a limit on indoor gatherings. (Photo courtesy of Ren Zelaya)