One and Done, Two and Through

On the morning of May 29, a single sentence in the May 28 Addendum to Public Agenda posted by the Board of Education on the website of the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns sent shock waves through the District. It read, “31. RESOLVED: That the Board of Education hereby accepts the resignation of Dr. Christopher Clouet, dated May 28, 2015, effective June 30, 2015.

”For more than a week that lone sentence was allowed to stand as the only official notice of the departure of the Superintendent of the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns. Dr. Clouet posted a message to the community on June 11, and the Board of Education issued a press statement on June 12 regarding the hiring of an Interim Superintendent. When asked why no official word was sent out earlier to parents regarding Dr. Clouet’s resignation, Board President Mimi Godwin explained, “Be-cause that had to come from him. That was his responsibility to send that out to the community, just as has been done in the past, [such as] when there was a retirement from Dr. Smith and a retirement from Dr. Kusel. It has to come from the Superintendent, we couldn’t overstep that.

”Dr. Clouet was appointed Superintendent of the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns two years ago after an extensive search to replace Dr. Howard Smith, who retired after 12 years of service to the District. Expectations were that Dr. Clouet would guide the District for many years to come, so his resignation after only two years came as a shock to many parents in the community. However, his seemingly sudden and unexpected departure had, in fact, been in the works for months.

It all started in December when he was approached to dis-cuss the opportunity of being considered for Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut. “It was the teachers’ unions in Connecticut that actually wanted me to be considered for the position,” he says. “Then I was asked, by virtue of that, to meet with the Governor’s Chief of Staff, with the Lt. Governor. There were a number of conversations with the Governor’s office and the [Connecticut] State Board of Education.”

Though Dr. Clouet was ultimately passed over for the position, the lengthy interview process –the details of which he kept the Board of Education for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns fully informed – was a harbinger of things to come. “As was made public, he had an application in for the Commissioner of Education job in Connecticut this year,” says Godwin. “So we knew there was a chance that he would be leaving. That was not resolved until April, and at that time he expressed thoughts that he and his family thought, through that experience… that it was time to make the move and go back to Connecticut for family reasons.

”Dr. Clouet agrees that family considerations played a strong role in his decision. “I started reconnecting with a lot of the political people and education leaders that I had worked with for 24 years in Connecticut,” he says. “Through the process my wife and I started to say maybe this is the right time to go back.” He adds that his application for the Commissioner’s position may have, itself, had a hand in bringing his time in the District to an end. “They [the Board of Education] were aware I was in discussions for the Connecticut position,” he says. “When that happened, I think it introduced a new element into the conversation. As a result, there were some discussions about whether I wanted to go back to Connecticut. I think that it became a mutually-understood circum-stance that maybe this would be right.

”Before coming to New York to be the Superintendent of Schools in White Plains in 2009, Dr. Clouet spent 24 years as a Superintendent, Principal, and educator in Connecticut. Yet when he joined the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns in 2013, he gave every indication he intended to put down roots in the District. “I would really like to dig in and work in the Tarrytown district for an ex-tended period,” he told River Journal in February of that year. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

“I want to make it clear that I’m in no way returning to Connecticut because of some discord with the community. It’s not that at all,” he says. “The community was very supportive. I’m not overstating it; I re-ally enjoyed very much working with community members here. And the kids are wonderful. I am focused mostly on kids and I’ve gotten to know kids, and I think, in contrast to a lot of other superintendents, they know me.

”Although his time as Superintendent is coming to a close, Dr. Clouet listed a number of pro-grams begun under his watch that he hopes the District will continue to prioritize. “One is, I’d like to continue with our writing initiative. Next year is really the big year, the third year, so I’d like to see that not just be a three-year project, but a long-term project,” he says. “I’d like to see the dual language program, which ends in 5th grade, established in the middle school so that we can really have a goal for those children to fully master two languages. Maybe in the future there could be another language introduced. There could be parallel dual-language programs.”To replace Dr. Clouet for the 2015-2016 school year,  the Board of Education  appointed Daniel T. McCann, Ed.D., as the District’s Interim Superintendent, effective July 1. “Having an Interim is an excellent opportunity for someone to see the District through a different lens,” says Godwin. “We’re hoping that he will look at the District and make recommendations for the new Superintendent when he comes on board.” Dr. McCann has over 42 years of educational experience, and has served as Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Director of K-12 Curriculum, and building Principal in the Hendrick Hudson School District in Montrose, the Rye City School District, the Pearl River School District, Bronxville, Pleasantville, and Hicksville, LI.

The Board of Education will be-gin the process of searching for a permanent Superintendent of Schools this summer. “We’re taking this step-by-step,” says Godwin. “The next step we will take is that the Board will be interviewing search commit-tees at the end of August, so we will have a search committee in place by the end of September.” The Board expects to name a new Superintendent of Schools by July 1, 2016.

As for Dr. Clouet, he will be returning to Connecticut, although he had not acquired a new position as of this writing. “I want to thank people. People have been very kind to me,”  he says.

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About the Author: David Neilsen