As the parent of a child in the Greenburgh Central School District (GCSD), I am deeply troubled by the board of education’s recent determination to not renew Superintendent Dr. Tahira Dupree Chase’s contract, expiring at the end of June 2021. A leadership change is a great loss to the students and a waste of taxpayer money. The future direction and leadership of our district should be a thoughtful, unrushed process that engages all community members, including the many involved and invested district parents.
Under Dr. Chase’s tenure over the past five years, the district has made enormous strides. Today, GCSD is one of only nine districts nationwide that has an International Baccalaureate program for grades K-12, as well as an IB Diploma. Mandarin instruction is offered for all children beginning in pre-K. The robust pre-K program is now full time for all students. High quality literacy programs have been integrated among the primary schools. The Advanced Learning Program was designed and implemented for exceptional young learners, along with more honors and Regents courses for older students. STEAM has become part of the curriculum at all grade levels with technology labs at even the elementary level, and robotics and engineering courses for older students. Test scores, while still in need of improvement, have significantly increased. The district offers free SAT and ACT prep courses, and the high school graduation rate is an impressive 94% with many students continuing on to top universities, colleges and technical schools.
Given all of these accomplishments and initiatives, why would the board of education not renew the superintendent’s contract? It is unclear, as Dr. Chase even received an “effective” rating in her evaluation from the board for the 2019-20 school year. All communications from the board of education to the public on this issue have been cryptic and carefully crafted by their legal team. There was no vote held regarding the expiration of the superintendent’s contract. The board has not allowed community members to speak at regular board meetings since the meetings were moved online in March. They have had no public discussion on the future direction of the district, which is arguably their most important task. In response to community pressure, the board is allowing their first public comments at October’s meetings, limited to two minutes of time per speaker and one hour total.
The board of education should neither be spending taxpayer dollars to hire a search firm, nor should they be undertaking a superintendent search in the current environment. The board only has two members with children in the school system, and it is now clear that we as parents need a stronger voice. When the COVID-19 crisis has passed, parents will remember being disenfranchised at this pivotal time. The board needs to focus on being more transparent in their decision-making. And most importantly, the GCSD Board of Education needs to actively engage all community members as we make crucial decisions together for the future of our district.