By Arielle Dollinger
Having served as superintendent of the Northport-East Northport Union-Free School District since 2006, Marylou McDermott announced Monday she will resign after the 2014-2015 school year concludes.
As of July 21, 2015, McDermott will no longer hold the “superintendent” title, in favor of “[pursuing] other professional opportunities,” she wrote in a July 21 letter to school district residents.
According to former school board President and current board member Stephen Waldenburg, McDermott has had “tremendous successes” as superintendent and always put the students first.
“You go into her office and on her shelf there is a sign that says, ‘It begins and ends with the child,’ and that’s been her philosophy,” Waldenburg said. “That, if nothing else, is to her core… She’s always focused on doing what’s right for the children, elevating them academically.”
Waldenburg, who began serving on the board in 2000, is the only current trustee who was part of the board that hired McDermott eight years ago.
“I think of her today as I thought of her then – as an exceptional individual and a great educator,” Waldenburg said. “She has been an excellent superintendent for the district.”
Current board President Julia Binger echoed Waldenburg’s sentiments.
“Her long list of achievements since 2006 have helped Northport-East Northport meet and exceed our goals,” she said in a statement. “Our hope is to recruit another leader that can continue the history of continuity and stability practiced by Dr. McDermott and her predecessors.”
Now, the lengthy process to find and hire a new superintendent will begin. The Northport-East Northport school district, Waldenburg said, requires one year’s notice of intent to retire or resign.
McDermott took the position in 2006 after Dr. William Brosnan retired after two decades as superintendent.
“I really believe that each leader builds upon the work of the leader before him or her, and that’s what I believe I did,” McDermott said in an interview Tuesday. “I got so much done that I wanted to accomplish that it’s just time for me to move on to a new challenge.”
She is not yet discussing her future plans. She does, however, plan to continue working and to explore “new professional opportunities.”
But McDermott is still superintendent until next July, and Waldenburg said that he expects her to continue to work as usual.
“She’s not going to take a back seat,” he said. “I know that. I know that’s not in her style.”
When the Board hired McDermott, Waldenburg said, its members asked her to bring “a fresh viewpoint” to the district. Eight years later, McDermott has created a legacy that includes six years of budgets that were under the state’s two-percent property tax levy cap.
“She was doing the two-percent tax law before it was a law,” Waldenburg said.
When asked about her most significant challenge during her years as superintendent, McDermott mentioned the budgets.
“I saw that we were coming into difficult economic times, and that I wanted to be proactive about that,” she said. “I’m very proud of the fact that we have been able to produce those budgets, and to have them overwhelmingly approved by the community.”
Even during the interview process, Waldenburg noted, McDermott impressed him with her answers to questions.
“I recall one time that she was challenged to come up with half a dozen ideas for what she would want to do in the district,” he said. “She came up with 10.”
While Waldenburg said that he feels a sense of “melancholy” as McDermott prepares to leave her position, he also said that he respects her wishes to move on.
“I do think that what she brought to the district was really tremendous,” he said. “I think we’re all very grateful for that.”
McDermott came to Northport from a job in the Rockville Centre school district. Prior to Northport, McDermott also held positions in the Oceanside and Garden City school districts.
“They [in Rockville Centre] all hated us for taking her away,” Waldenburg said of McDermott’s “home district.”