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May 14, 2018 10:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue To Include $120,000 In 2018-19 Budget For Assistant Principal

East Quogue Superintendent and Principal Robert Long. VALERIE GORDON
May 15, 2018 3:41 PM

The East Quogue School District’s decision to fund a full-time assistant principal position in the 2018-19 budget has at least one critic: former School Board member Cynthia McNamara, who says the $120,000 would be better spent on a full-time psychologist.

The former board vice president is questioning why an assistant principal is needed, given the board’s effort last year to solidify Superintendent Robert Long’s role as both superintendent and principal, amid what she said were assurances from Mr. Long and board members that he was doing a good job as the district’s sole administrator.

The district laid off a part-time psychologist, Dr. Ed Vinski, after eliminating the position from the 2013-14 budget, saving the district approximately $60,000.

“They all voted to give Rob the combined position, and they all expressed their overwhelming confidence in his ability to handle all of his responsibilities,” Ms. McNamara said. “The duties you are now saying that, even with declining enrollment, are too much for Mr. Long to handle.”

Ms. McNamara, an East Quogue mother of two, was adamantly against making the position permanent while she was a member of the School Board last year, arguing that it would limit oversight in the district and remove vital checks and balances, and that the combined position was “too big” to be handled by one person.

She maintains that Mr. Long had promised the community last year that the district would not hire another administrator. She singled out Board President Christopher Hudson and board members Jessica Stalters and Dianna Gobler, who voted to approve the measure last year, and noted wryly that Mr. Long did not make it one year before requiring an additional administrator.

Mr. Long served as the acting superintendent since 2015, when former part-time Superintendent Les Black resigned, before seeking a state waiver to make the position permanent last year. He has served as principal for 18 years.

Mr. Long’s combined position saved the district approximately $27,000 annually. In the 2015-16 school year, while Mr. Long was serving as principal under Mr. Black, he collected an annual salary of $155,790. Combined with Mr. Black’s $55,000 salary, the district was paying $210,790 for the two administrators. After combining the positions, Mr. Long collects a salary of $184,000.

Mr. Long defended the position this week, noting that hiring another full-time assistant principal was not intended to make his job easier, but would allow for the district’s current Committees on Special Education, or CSE, chairwoman, Lauren Porter, to fill the role of school psychologist. The new assistant principal would take over Ms. Porter’s responsibilities as CSE chair, freeing her up for the new post.

Mr. Long explained that hiring a full-time psychologist would cost upward of $87,000. “Instead, for $120,000, we’re getting a full-time administrator.”

Board members Brian Babcock and Jessica Stalters fully support the proposed addition.

“It’s not safe to have just one administrator in the building,” Ms. Stalters said at a recent board meeting. “Mr. Long needs time to build relationships with lawmakers and attend professional development.”

Mr. Babcock agreed: “It will help with overall safety of the building to have two leaders in the building.”

While Mr. Long admits that assurances were made for the 2017-18 budget, “there was never any commitment to the State Education Department that the district would never add another administrator,” he said.

“She’s distorting her facts—I will truly never know what’s driving her vendetta,” Mr. Long said of Ms. McNamara. “There are times when you have to do what you think is right despite the detractors. If we disagree, we disagree.”

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