Colleagues speak highly of Greenport’s outgoing superintendent

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09/01/2013 4:00 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Greenport school board approved Superintendent Michael Comanda's retirement request at Wednesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Greenport school board approved Superintendent Michael Comanda’s retirement request Aug. 21.

Greenport School District officials, teachers and administrators said they were saddened last week to learn that Superintendent Michael Comanda will retire next summer.

Longtime Greenport social studies teacher Ron McEvoy described working with Mr. Comanda as “a pleasure” and said he’ll miss him because he was fair and worked hard to improve educational opportunities inside the classroom.

“It’s not an easy job, but he won the respect of everyone,” Mr. McEvoy said. “It’s hard to please everybody, but I think he was as successful as you can be. He’s going to be a hard man to replace.”

Mr. Comanda began working in the district about 12 years ago as high school principal and he replaced his mentor Charles Kozora as superintendent in 2009.

During his tenure, the elementary school was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 and U.S. News & World Report ranked the Greenport High School in April as one of the best in the nation.

In recent years, he’s worked with Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg to create several shared-service agreements to increase student program opportunities while cutting costs, such as creating a joint track team this year and agreeing to share a new technology director.

In 2010, Mr. Comanda’s administration and the school board gained the community’s support for a $7.48 million bond to fund several capital improvements, including a new roof, windows and boilers. The school’s auditorium, which had fallen into disrepair, was also renovated and brought back to its original luster. In addition, the district is installing a new playground and science labs. The refurbished chemistry and earth science/physics labs will sport new flooring, cabinets, fume hoods and paint, as well as plumbing and electrical work.

Greenport residents also approved a $1.27 million bond in 2010 for an alternative energy project. The solar panel project is scheduled to be completed this year and is designed to meet all the building’s energy needs, which school officials said is about 250 kilowatts. The project also includes a digital kiosk inside the school designed to teach students about solar energy and demonstrate its efficiency compared to oil, coal and gas.

High school principal Leonard Skuggevik said he believes the school building’s transformation is one of Mr. Comanda’s crowning achievements as superintendent.

“He’s done a great job with putting this place together,” Mr. Skuggevik said of the capital improvements. “He’s been my mentor since I walked in here. It’s sad. I’m happy for him, but it’s a big loss for the community.”

When asked by a reporter why he decided to retire, Mr. Comanda said, “You just kind of know, internally, when it’s time for a change.”

“Greenport has been wonderful to me,” he said. “It’s been a second home to me. I just feel it’s time to do it.”

Although Mr. Comanda is leaving Greenport, he said he plans to remain as New Suffolk school’s superintendent.

Last year, the New Suffolk school board hired Mr. Comanda as the pre-K through sixth-grade district’s part-time superintendent.

During the Greenport school board’s regular meeting Aug. 21, the board unanimously approved Mr. Comanda’s intent to retire Aug. 31, 2014.

School board president Heather Wolf said after the meeting that board members will discuss plans to replace Mr. Comanda in the coming months.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say we’re very sorry to see him go, from a district point of view, and are very pleased that his wife and family are taking this next step,” she said. “Happy for him. Sad for us.”

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