Budhai To Leave Westbury In June

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Superintendent accepts position at Nyack

Eudes Budhai began his term as superintendent of schools on July 1, 2017. (Westbury School District photo)

While the Westbury Union Free School District continues its search for a superintendent, its current one has decided to go elsewhere when his four-year contract expires on June 30.

Eudes Budhai will start as chief of the Nyack schools in Rockland County on July 1. 2021. His hiring was affirmed by the Nyack Board of Education on April 20. His four-year contract carries a base salary of $265,000 per year.

“No more bridges to cross,” he was told, given his approximately 46-mile trek from Ramsey, NJ, to Westbury. The commute to Nyack is about 18 miles.

“Everybody that I speak to—that’s one of the first things they say,” he chuckled, then mused on the bridge metaphor: “I see bridges as an amazing tool to use. When you build a bridge, it’s really to connect across the board, and I guess every time that I cross those two bridges it really has given me the opportunity to reflect and understand what a bridge actually does.”

He added, “And and it has helped me in my life in terms of building bridges with people, with the community and with students. I don’t see the bridges as an impediment, in fact I see them as something positive. When I go to Nyack I could actually see the bridge right in my eye [referring to the Mario Cuomo/Tappan Zee Bridge]. It’s just an amazing thing to see and the time and energy and commitment it takes to build the bridge—that’s how I see life now.”

“You’re at peace with this decision?” he was asked.

He replied, “Absolutely. Reflecting back on this whole situation that has occurred, I’ve taken this opportunity to really reflect on my career, On my 19 years here in Westbury, and all the great experiences I’ve had with my staff, with my family and a community that really cares about the children. I respect the board’s decision to want to do a national search and it gave me the time to actually reflect and start taking a look at the next chapter in my life. Applying to Nyack has really given me the opportunity and I’m very fortunate that Nyack has selected me as their next superintendent.”

Gathering at the 2019 Homecoming game were, from left, Assistant Superintendent for Business Roger Bloom, High School Assistant Principal Paul Pelech, Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal David Graff, Board of Education Trustee Rodney Caines, High School Assistant Principal Marcia Craytonn (kneeling), varsity football head coach Savalis Charles, Superintendent Eudes Budhai, High School Principal David Zimbler and High School Assistant Principal Reginald Warren, who chaired the homecoming parade and homecoming committee.

Asked what he needs to do in his remaining months at Westbury, Budhai responded, “We’re living in very challenging times. My goal as a superintendent was always to put systems and structures in place in the district so that whether I’m here or not, the district could sustain itself and the leadership and staff could move forward with plans to keep everyone safe, and for the students to learn at their capacity and maximize every resource that we have to continue this journey of teaching and learning. Things are not going to be the same as they have in the past. We have seen these challenges and have to turn them into opportunities for what lies ahead in education, which is extraordinary.”

The district, under the pandemic, has turned to a hybrid learning model with a mix of in-person and remote classes.

“I think that we’ve done the best that we can under the circumstances,” he said of educating students. “Our staff and our leadership team and our families and our children have really risen to the top and have been resilient and persevered. At times like these, our children are the gem of our school district. We understand that there’s going be emotional challenges and it’s going to be our job now to reassure our students and families and learn from what has occurred to become a better school district all around.”

Right Fit

In announcing Budhai’s hire, Nyack Board of Education President Michael Mark said in a statement, “The board believes that Mr. Budhai brings to Nyack Public Schools a wealth of experience and a demonstrated track record of equity and excellence regarding student achievement, fiscal management and family engagement. After receiving comprehensive input from the community, the board set out last fall to find an experienced and collaborative educator, a visible and approachable listener and communicator, a dynamic and transparent decision maker, and a forward thinking, courageous, and equity-focused leader. We believe we have found all that and more in Mr. Budhai.”

Budhai gets interviewed at the groundbreaking for the high school expansion project in 2019. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Asked to reflect on his time in Westbury, Budhai said, “From the beginning of this process I did commit and reaffirmed my commitment to the school district and the Westbury community and I wanted to continue serving the community. But you know, situations occur and I believe magic happens and there’s always a reason why things happen. I think that’s why I will be departing from Westbury, but not departing from education. I know that whoever will sit in my seat as the next superintendent will be reaching out to me and I will always make myself available to support my colleagues and that’s what superintendents do, we support each other. And that’s part of the collaboration and unity towards achieving equity in education.”

Budhai has overseen the completion of the expansion at the high school and the near-completion of the expansion project at the middle school. It was part of the $58.5 million bond he and the school board campaigned for and the voters approved during his first year as superintendent.

With the construction expected to be completed in September or October at the middle school, the district will not need to send an entire grade to the Learning Annex at Nassau Community College this fall due to classroom shortages.

“It’s an extraordinary thing to happen for our children and our community,” Budhai said of the construction. “It’s going to be beautiful, but that’s not the end. We’re in the process of looking at additional capital projects. Some of those things include remodeling of our schools and continually upgrading our systems. And maybe putting in a turf field at our high school and possibly the middle school.”

To Test Or Not

“What’s the status of assessment tests for this school year?” Budhai was asked.

The expansion project at the middle school includes 12 new classrooms and a new cafeteria. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

He replied, “The state Education Department put in a waiver and I really applaud the state for advocating for our children and our staff because it’s probably not the right thing to do during a time like this. We’re still in our healing process and we have our own ways of trying to figure out our students progress or lack thereof. The federal government did not agree to the elimination of the state assessment this year, but nevertheless we have made modifications so we are going to be offering the state assessment test as indicated by the state Education Department but doing it in a safe manner with specific protocols in place with social distancing and we did purchase shields for every desk in the district as a precautionary measure.”

He continued, “When parents decided that they would like their children to take the test, those students will be coming in and we will administer the assessment tests as needed. Parents have always had the option to opt out, or in this case, have the option to opt in. We have surveyed to our parents to make sure we have the space to have our children come in and when we have the numbers we will done mitigate are protocols and procedures in our schools so when our students enter they will follow the protocols aligned to the CDC and the New York State Department of Health guidelines.”

One of the classrooms in the high school’s new wing, tabbed the Freshmen Academy. It opened in December, 2019. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

State officials requested a waiver from the federal Education Department for the English, math, and science tests annually given to New York’s third through eighth graders this spring. According to an article in the Gothamist, “The Biden Administration informed states in February that it expected them to move forward with standardized testing, in an effort to identify how much students have learned, or not, during the pandemic. But federal officials offered states flexibility in how and when they administered the tests. Tests could be shorter, and they did not have to be used to evaluate the performance of teachers or schools. In New York, the education department said offering tests remotely wasn’t fair or feasible. It also said results will not be tied to any accountability measures for schools, or funding.”

Asked for some final thoughts, Budhai said, “I want to thank our Westbury community. I want to thank our staff. I want to thank our children and our families for believing in me for the last 19 years.”

He concluded, ”I have learned a great deal here and there is nothing that I regret. As I have mentioned, I am committed to this community. But life takes us in a different pathway and now I will be serving another community and I will do it with the same commitment and dedication that I have for the last 19 years in Westbury.”

Statement From Budhai

Dear Westbury Learning Community,

Budhai shares a laugh with Board of Education Trustee Robin Bolling, second from left, and 2019 graduate Jahsua Taylor at a football game. (Photo by Frank Rizzo0

It is with sincere regret to inform you that my journey in Westbury is coming to an end as I was appointed as Superintendent of Schools for the Nyack Union Free School District on April 20, 2021. This announcement comes with a heavy heart, having proudly served the Westbury UFSD for the past nineteen wonderful years. It has been an extraordinary journey, which each of you have been a part of. For that, I am eternally grateful. We have accomplished so many great things during my tenure here while serving as Director, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and Personnel, and currently as your Superintendent of Schools.

An African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!” Collaboration and unity were pivotal to the success of the district and in particular during these difficult times. With the support of our colleagues, our families, community and most importantly, our magnificent scholars, we have accomplished amazing things.

I would like to thank the Board of Education who has provided me with the opportunities to showcase my leadership talents. During our journey together:

• We have seen our children grow, both Westbury children and our own personal families.

• We have increased academic achievement, graduation rates, expanded opportunities for our students to become global citizens with acceptance into the finest institutions and careers.

• We have held courageous and complex conversations which challenged us and pushed us out of our comfort zones.

• We have and continue to expand our schools to meet the challenges of overcrowding conditions, ensuring a cutting-edge infrastructure to conserve energy and increase technology. This reality came as a result of a Bond Referendum, remodeling of classrooms, allocation for an upgrade to our infrastructure and 1:1 technology for every child, and to the future of an Energy Performance Contract to conserve energy and reallocate funding to support our children.

• We have established and implemented a comprehensive plan to increase family engagement and provide a safe space for all voices to be heard.

• We have paved a roadmap for success through our Five-Year Strategic Plan.

• We have worked collaboratively on securing fair contracts.

• We have fought tirelessly to ensure that NYS equitably fund schools appropriately to educate our children and we have been VICTORIOUS!

During this devastating pandemic, we have lost many lives but continue to demonstrate our strength and resilience through collaboration and unity towards providing EQUITY for ALL. I am proud of you and know that the systems and structures that are in place will continue to drive the Westbury UFSD to greater heights. To the entire staff, families, community and children, I will truly miss you all! CUEup Westbury!

“Let your light shine so that others can see their way out of the dark.” — Timber Hawkeye

Westbury Board Of Education Statement

Erica Mendez comforts her daughter, Alianna Manzano, 10, who had just broken down after stating, “I love Mr. Budhai” at a July 2020 board of education meeting in which the superintendent received overwhelming public support. The board had announced at the time that it would begin a search for a new superintendent. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

[On April 20,] the Nyack Public Schools announced that they would be voting that evening to hire Mr. Budhai to be their next superintendent of schools. At [the April 22] Westbury Board of Education meeting Mr. Budhai confirmed that he had been approved in a unanimous vote of the Nyack board. We want to congratulate him on his appointment.

Based on what we have read about the skill set and qualities Nyack was looking for in a superintendent and what we know about Mr. Budhai’s capabilities, we believe they have made an excellent selection. Similarly, Mr. Budhai has found a perfect match in Nyack given its progressive focus on equity, inclusion and advancing student achievement.

Mr. Budhai has been a tireless advocate for our children throughout his nearly two decades with us, arriving early and staying late to ensure they received the best we had to offer. We are grateful to Mr. Budhai for all that he has done during his tenure with us. We wish him success in his new role.

Nyack Public School Press Release

The Board of Education of the Nyack Union Free School District announced the appointment of Eudes S. Budhai of Ramsey, NJ, as the new superintendent of schools of the Nyack Union Free School District, effective July 1, 2021. A four-year contract was approved by the board at its regular April 20 meeting via Zoom conference.

“I am grateful to the Nyack Board of Education and community for providing me with the opportunity to expand on the innovative experiences afforded to the students, families and community of Nyack,” Budhai said. “I already feel a sense of synergy, core values and building bridges.”

Budhai began his career in education as a paraprofessional in the New York City Board of Education, simultaneously working to obtain his educational degree and becoming a bilingual special education teacher. He went on to the Mount Vernon School District, where he served as an educator, chair and principal of the Mount Vernon Evening Learning Academy. In 2013 he became assistant superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Personnel for the Westbury Union Free School District before being hired as its superintendent on June 30, 2017.

At Westbury he was instrumental in the passage of a $58.5 million bond referendum to expand schools as well as the passage of four budgets over $151 million. He increased family engagement and championed diversity, equity and inclusion. The high school was recognized as one of 12 schools in New York State to achieve higher graduation rates than the state average—for students of color and for all students.

The Nyack Board of Education selected Budhai because of his experience across every sector of school administration, from business to communications to special education, bilingual and dual-language programs, facilities management and more. Having successfully reopened schools during COVID-19, Budhai served as an expert earlier this year as part of a webinar focused on remote learning. Fluent in Spanish, Budhai is a nationally recognized expert on racial equity and inclusion, having spoken at seminars and conventions for the National Association for Bilingual Education, the New York State School Boards Association, the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and more.

He has been awarded the Trailblazer in Education award by the Nassau County Executive and the Town of North Hempstead Hispanic in Leadership Award.

“Mr. Budhai’s experience increasing academic and student success as a result of establishing a culture of trust and building consensus around strategies to increase equity, access, and excellence makes him the right person to build on the success Dr. James J. Montesano has achieved in Nyack Public Schools,” said Board of Education President Michael Mark. “Mr. Budhai is the right person at the right moment in Nyack’s academic and equity trajectory, and the Board of Education couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter in our district’s story.”

Budhai had plenty of praise for how the Westbury students have handled the pandemic. Here they are shown at a pep rally. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

The hiring of Budhai follows an extensive search led by consultants Dr. Charles Fowler, Susan Wollin, Dr. Ken Mitchell and Dr. LaRuth Gray of School Leadership, LLC, that began on September 9, 2020. The process included two focus groups, attended by 142 members of the Nyack Public Schools community, held in October, 2020 and a focus group for faculty held in October, 2020. The focus groups were followed by an online survey (in English and Spanish) that garnered input from families, students, community leaders, district staff and more, which helped to create a holistic and comprehensive profile for the new superintendent.

Employment terms for Budhai include a four-year contract with a base salary of $265,000, which is comparable to superintendent salaries in the region and reflects the board’s high expectations for this crucial role and this experienced leader.

A proud alumnus of the Fiorello La Guardia High School of Music and Performing Arts in New York City, Budhai graduated Magna Cum Laude from the City University of New York and has a Master’s of Science from St. John’s University, and a professional diploma in Supervision and Administration from Queens College, CUNY. He expects to receive his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from St. John’s University. He also completed the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard University.

Budhai was born and raised in New York City to immigrant parents. He is married with three children, is an advocate for the arts, enjoys playing percussion instruments and dancing. He looks forward to being an active member of the Nyack-Valley Cottage Community. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, plans for a reception and formal introduction to the community will be announced at a later date.

The Nyack Board of Education wishes to thank our beloved community for its valuable input. The trustees recognize that hiring a superintendent is one of the most important responsibilities of any school board, and as such, have approached the task with gravity and care. As noted by President Mark above, the board looks forward to introducing Budhai to the community and the community to Budhai, as he learns firsthand what makes Nyack such a special place to teach and learn—and the myriad ways in which we are building bridges for today’s students to cross into tomorrow’s world with equity, innovation and optimism.

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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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