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Greenport’s incoming superintendent says he’s looking forward ‘to start something new’

At a socially distanced meeting Tuesday night, the Greenport Board of Education hired a new superintendent, Marlon Small.

In a unanimous vote, the school board appointed Mr. Small, a Melville resident, to succeed David Gamberg, who is set to retire June 30. The three-year contract approved did not list his salary on the public agenda.

Mr. Small, a native of Jamaica, is currently assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and accountability for the South Country School District in Brookhaven.

He began his 21-year career in education as a fourth-grade teacher in Huntington and went on to serve as longtime principal at Flower Hill Primary School in Huntington. He resigned from that position in 2017 when he was hired by the South Country School District. He holds a degree in American studies from SUNY College at Old Westbury, a master’s in elementary and special education from Adelphi University and a professional administrative certification from Dowling College.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Mr. Small said after Tuesday night’s board meeting. “I’m looking forward to this phase, to start something new.”

Mr. Small said he’s most looking forward to interacting with students in the close-knit district. South Country is a district with over 4,000 students K-12. He will begin July 1 in Greenport, which enrolls approximately 627 students.

“When I stopped being a principal, the thing I missed the most was being around kids all the time,” Mr. Small said. “I feel like this gives me the opportunity to have a districtwide influence,” he added, noting that it’s unique to have all levels combined in one building.

Board of Education president Daniel Creedon said he was excited about the appointment. “We think his appointment will resonate with the community,” Mr. Creedon said, since Mr. Small is an immigrant from Jamaica. 

According to the most recent data on the NYSED website, more than half of Greenport’s students are Latino, 7% are black and 22% are identified as English Language Learners.

“We think a lot of our students will recognize that experience,” Mr. Creedon said. “Plus, he has a wonderful background as a successful principal and assistant superintendent.”

Traditionally, superintendent candidates would visit the school for a walkthrough after receiving a job offer. But due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the school has been empty since mid-March.

“With the pandemic and not knowing what September might look like, we are all anxious about it,” Mr. Small said. “But hopefully the summer will give us some respite. We’ll see what happens and plan for it.”

Mr. Gamberg also addressed planning for next school year amid the pandemic during the meeting, noting that officials are already working to plan for the eventual reopening of school. “There are so many contingencies and considerations … It is very daunting to think about all that has to be thought of,” he said.

The planning process includes thinking about children as young as kindergarten having to wear face masks all day, or placing dots and arrows on the floor to direct them on social distancing guidelines. Mr. Gamberg also said the district must begin stocking additional safety equipment, including supplies and disinfectants, to ensure it’s safe to attend school. A working group is already meeting on these protocols, he said, as well as whether to order face masks or shields for teachers to wear. 

“These are things we’re grappling with,” he said, adding that he doesn’t intend to finalize the plans, but rather get the process going for his successor.

“It’s bittersweet,” Mr. Gamberg said after the meeting. “I love what I do and I’m passionate about education,” he said, vowing to continue advocating for public schools. He said that while he doesn’t know Mr. Small personally, he’s ready and willing to aid in the transition, especially during the uncertain times.

Mr. Gamberg has also served as superintendent of the Southold School District, a joint role he began in 2014 when he replaced the retiring Greenport superintendent Michael Comanda. Mr. Gamberg has been Southold’s superintendent for 12 years. That joint role will now come to an end as each district makes separate hires. 

Southold school board President Paulette Ofrias said Tuesday evening that the district is still conducting interviews and hopes to make a decision soon.