Sewanhaka's Ferrie: one more year to go

Superintendent announces plans in emotional meeting


BEverything was going as planned during the Sewanhaka Central High School District Board of Education’s annual reorganization meeting on July 9. With most of the board members present, District Clerk Eleanor Moore swore them in for another year of service.

Afterward, however, Superintendent Ralph Ferrie addressed the board. “As I enter my eighth year as superintendent, I want to acknowledge all the board members, administrators, teachers, staff and thousands of students for their help throughout my time here,”

he said, “but I’d like to announce that I have made plans to re-

tire at the end of the 2018-19 school year.”

The board reluctantly voted to accept Ferrie’s retirement, and board President David Del Santo reminisced about when Ferrie first joined the district as superintendent in 2011. When the board had to find a successor for then Superintendent Warren Meierdiercks, he said, it was a challenge.

“But we found the right

man those eight years ago,” Del Santo said.

Ferrie came to Sewanhaka with more than three decades of experience in education. While an assistant professor at Georgian Court University in 2011, he also served as superintendent of schools of the Three Village Central School District in Stony Brook. Before that, he was superintendent of the Monroe Township School District in Middlesex, N.J., and the Absecon Public School District in Absecon, N.J.

Ferrie took Sewanhaka’s reins during a tumultuous time for the district. The state had only recently imposed a 2 percent tax-levy cap, limiting the total amount that the district could collect in taxes to meet expenses, and thus the district’s budget. The Common Core State Standards, which were later overturned, took effect during the 2011-12 school year. And the district was taking in a large number of immigrant children from Latin America and Asia. Ferrie had to get to work quickly, and he started even before he began his new position.

After he was hired, but before he started in the post, he attended an educators’ conference in New Jersey, where he met University of Pennsylvania Professor Robert Jarvis. Ferrie was intrigued by Jarvis’s presentation, which addressed problems that administrators might have understanding diverse student populations and how they could help their districts help minority students overcome obstacles.

“I knew that the Sewanhaka district had a high minority population, so I started talking to Professor Jarvis about his work in Rockville Centre, and if that was something we could bring to other Long Island schools,” Ferrie said. “We eventually got a bunch of other districts together and started the Long Island Consortium for Equity and Excellence.”

Through the consortium and the district’s Cultural Proficiency Program, Sewanhaka received professional development training in equity, diversity and cultural responsiveness. The district also implemented the Integrated Advanced Program for seventh- and eighth-graders to give all students a fair chance to take advanced courses later in high school.

With the Board of Education, Ferrie also shepherded passage of an $86 million bond in 2014, which was used to make several improvements to district buildings. And he passed an energy performance contract, through which solar panels were installed on all of the district’s five high schools, earning them Energy Star certifications.

Phyllis Falco, of Franklin Square, shed a tear as she described her shock that Ferrie was retiring. “You’re taking our breath away, but we wish you great success,” she told him. “And thank you for everything you’ve done.”

Ferrie said he believed he still has more to accomplish for the district in the next year. He is now focused on implementing the new Alternative School and Academic Learning Center for the start of the school year in September. The center’s programs will serve nontraditional and suspended students, providing them with an education during the school day. Ferrie also wants to finish implementing the district’s one-to-one program, which will provide all students with iPads by the start of the school year.

“I’ve been with the district for quite a while, and the students here, they only deserve the best,” he said.

“We are grateful for all Dr. Ferrie has done for our district during his time with us,” Del Santo said. “He is a consummate professional, and we are sad he will be leaving, but are confident that we can find an equally impressive successor within this generous time frame.”