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Bill Hohauser Tapped to Fill Seat of BOE Member Sue Sturman

The BOE announced at its Oct. 6 meeting that after much consideration William Hohauser will replace BOE member Sue Sturman who left her position in August.

Readers will recall that Mr. Hohauser ran for the BOE last May,

BOE President Karen Sloan commented, “We selected Bill because we felt that he was well-versed in the current issues facing the board, as he had just run a campaign in May. We are looking forward to working with him and welcome him to the BOE.”

When asked to comment on his appointment, Mr. Hohauser said, “I am very humbled by the board’s expression of confidence in me, and hope to further Sue Sturman’s lifelong legacy of caring for the Port Washington community and our exceptional school district.”

He added, “On a going-forward basis, I hope to work with the entire board of education with a view toward opening the decision-making process to the extent possible, so as to achieve even greater transparency as to how we go about educating our children.”

Mr. Hohauser’s first challenge will be at Columbus Day morning meeting to discuss the still unsettled teachers contract.

BOE member Jean-Marie Posner, who had supported the appointment of Mr. Hohauser from the beginning when Ms. Sturman first announced her resignation, said the following:

“Sue’s vacancy created a unique opportunity to think out of the box. This was a rare occasion to select a BOE trustee that might have been the community’s pick in an election had the vacancy been known at that time. What are the odds?”

She added, “In the six years that I have served, this is the third time that I have been faced with replacing a vacancy on the BOE. The first encounter with this situation on the board, we went without an appointment for the remainder of the year. Then, there was the resignation of Pat Foye with the replacement of Rocco Andriola through a community-wide search. Now, the resignation of Sue Sturman and the selection of the “next” runner up from the recent election speaks volumes regarding the trustees’ ability to arrive at the same conclusion (one of the community’s choice) while traveling down parallel paths. I look forward to working with Bill Hohauser in the coming year and leaning on him for the legal, educational and business skills he brings to our board.”

To reacquaint readers with Mr. Hohauser and his philosophies on education, policies and the role of a school board member, the Port News is rerunning his portion of the candidates’ article we ran in May prior to the election. It follows:

Bill Hohauser

“I attended SUNY-Binghamton, graduated in 1981 with high honors and degrees in economics and mathematics. I then attended Columbia University School of Law, graduating in 1984. After four years with law firms, joined Shearson Lehman Brothers in 1987, and now work for a successor firm known as Citigroup. In the last 22 years, I have resolved thousands of litigations and tried hundreds myself, and am a senior trial attorney with the firm.

“I have been active in the community, serving as a PYA basketball coach for many years. I also have been honored with an appointment by the governor of the state of New York with an appointment to the College Council at SUNY-Old Westbury, where I serve on the Strategic Planning and Curriculum committees.

“In addition, I have been privileged to help many of our highest caliber local officials, such as State Senator Craig Johnson and County Legislator Wayne Wink, for whom I have served as their treasurer, as well as Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman.

“On a personal level, I am an avid bridge player, chess player, golfer, long distance runner and has-been baseball and basketball player.

“All of the above pales in comparison with the most important part of my life: my wife Sharon, to whom I have been married for 22 years, and our two incredible daughters, Alexandra (17) and Emma (14).

“Mission statement: I run for this seat to offer my services to a wonderful community that prizes educational excellence, and hope that my business background and problem-solving ability will be of assistance.”

What do you think about the proposed budget? What would you have included or excluded in it?

“I support passage of the budget, although with reservations. Given these unprecedented economic times, I had hoped that the board would recognize that Port Washington has been hit especially hard by the current economic crisis and that a zero-increase budget would have been preferable. I appreciate that the administration understood this and attempted to reduce the increase still further. However, two of my opponents added funds to the budget for programs that the administration did not believe were necessary.

“Because I feel it imperative to bring Port Washington further into the 21st century, I would have included additional funding for technology and capital improvement. We have lagged behind with respect to our computer capabilities and this cannot continue, because the cumulative effect will be detrimental to our students. Concerning capital improvements, we have facilities which are in dire need of repair, i.e., roof repair, the Weber locker rooms are just two examples and waiting will only cause the necessary expenses to rise.”

How do you feel about the fact that the teachers have 20 paid sick days?

“The Port Washington academic professional staff deserves the utmost respect for the important work they do. However, regarding illness, in the private sector 20 paid sick days per year would not be provided to any employee, absent compelling circumstances. When so many of our neighbors are either unemployed or under-employed, it is difficult to rationalize such a policy. That said, there should be an analysis of the how intensively this sick leave policy has been utilized before making any rash decisions.”

How do you differ from your opponents? What makes you stand out as a candidate?

“As a trial attorney, arbitrator and mediator for 25 years, I have unique insight into how a dispute arises, its framework, and how to negotiate the best possible resolution for all parties. Having negotiated thousands of settlements, I understand how to enable people to reach consensus and move forward. As a decision-maker, I have come to recognize that pragmatism should prevail over ideology. In addition, I have been honored to receive an appointment from the Governor of the State of New York to serve on the College Council at SUNY-Old Westbury, where I serve on the strategic planning and curriculum committees. In this trustee-equivalent role, I have been engaged in the process of planning for the future, in that SUNY Old Westbury is undergoing an analysis of how they can better provide educational services to this community. If Port Washington does not plan and anticipate for the future, then we will always be reacting to the past, placing us in an untenable catch-up position. That must change, and I want to be part of the team that effects that change.”

Which federal/state mandates would you work on trying to eliminate?

“At the outset, any unfunded mandate should be vetted by a complete cost-benefit accounting, such that we could determine whether it would be net positive or negative. I would advocate performing such an analysis on any mandate currently imposed as well as any proposed. This furthers my goal of turning the board’s perspective toward the future rather than just the past. Some of the mandates I would question include those requiring (in effect) teachers to “teach for the standardized test” and shelve their curriculum; advocacy for pension reform including the adoption of a Tier 5 level; the ability to bargain collectively for lower-cost health benefits; and an increase in the threshold required for competitive bidding on certain projects (as of now, the district is required to have competitive bidding on contracts for relatively small amounts, this increases the cost dramatically).”

It has been reported that Dr. Gordon is up for consideration for state education commissioner. Do you feel that there are internal candidates who could step into his role or would you prefer to go outside the district? What do you think are the three most important qualities for a Port Washington school superintendent?

“If Dr. Gordon was to be appointed state education commissioner, I am confident that there are internal candidates who we could consider for the position. However, as Dr. Gordon had prior successful engagements as a school district superintendent, I believe that it would be important to conduct a full-fledged, open search for any successor. I would consider the three most important qualities for the Port Washington superintendant to be: (i) personal integrity; (ii) the fiscal sense to manage a $125 million/year enterprise; and (iii) the ability to understand the cultural diversity and history that make Port Washington a unique community.”

What is the best way to identify ineffective teachers?

“I do not believe that it is within the board of education’s purview to “identify” ineffective teachers. In that regard, board members do not perform classroom evaluations or the equivalent, rather that is properly the responsibility of the administration and its delegates. However, if a board member becomes aware of a possible problem, it is incumbent upon that board member to notify the appropriate administrator and keep apprised of any appropriate remedial action, if any was necessary. In any event, I do not believe that reliance upon mere standardized test scores would be a litmus test in this fashion.”

What do you feel is the role of a school board member?

“A school board member should work closely with the rest of the board to establish a partnership with the community as a whole, the administration and the professional staff in order to define the goals for the school district and to provide a road map of how to achieve those aims, while understanding that our first duty is to provide our children with a quality education. The board as a whole sets general policies; it is not the individual board member’s function to micro-manage those responsibilities properly performed by the administration and the professional staff.”