Dr. Scott Farina, a former principal at East Hampton High School, was appointed Southampton’s new school superintendent at a special meeting on Friday evening, six months after current Superintendent Dr. J. Richard Boyes announced his retirement.
The appointment by the Southampton School Board is the result of a five-month-long search by School Leadership LLC, a search firm that worked with the School Board to poll the Southampton community through focus groups, community meetings and an online survey about the qualities they desire in a superintendent. More than 60 applicants went through interviews and reference checks. There were no internal applicants for the position.
Dr. Farina will assume the district’s top post on July 1.
After the vote, Dr. Farina said he is eager to get started, despite difficulties the school faces in meeting the state-imposed 2-percent tax levy cap with its next budget, and discussions ongoing about a possible merger with Tuckahoe School.
“The possibility of a merger has not shied me away from this job at all,” he said this week. “I see it as another challenge, and I look forward to facing it if something does happen.”
Dr. Farina, 48, has more than 20 years of experience in education, serving four years as the principal of East Hampton High School from 2003 to 2007. Most recently, he served as an administrative consultant in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He worked at the “Pennsylvania equivalent of BOCES [Board of Cooperative Educational Services] and was part of a team that goes in and helps turn around failing or dysfunctional schools,” School Board President Heather McCallion said.
As administrative consultant, Dr. Farina looked at the organizational structure of schools and helped make them more cost-efficient and more student-focused—exactly what Southampton School District officials said they want from a new superintendent.
“The board unanimously and enthusiastically determined that Dr. Farina was absolutely the right fit for the district and our community,” Ms. McCallion said. “Dr. Farina is smart, engaging, dynamic, data-driven, straightforward and cares about taking all our kids and the district to the next level. He has demonstrated an ability to work well with administration, teachers, support staff and students.”
His familiarity with a tight budget also gave him an edge over other candidates—in Pennsylvania, the tax levy cap has been more restrictive, at 1.4 and 1.7 percent, according to Dr. Farina. “I am used to doing more with less, and I’m really looking forward to making sure our district is running as efficiently as possible,” he added.
In addition to having experience keeping an eye on financials, Dr. Farina said he has a background that has prepared him for the new post. “I think I have a unique experience of having been an administrator in a school on the East End of Long Island, which I think is important, because I understand the culture on the East End,” he said. “I’ve been very successful in closing the achievement gap for students in districts, and I really want to look at that closely from the get-go for Southampton.”
Instead of seeing himself as a “district manager,” he said the position should be “instructional leader.” “We are in the business of helping students succeed,” he said. “I really have a philosophy that we need to meet the needs of all students in the district. In all of our discussions, when talking about the operation of the district, we have to bring it back to how these decisions impact student learning and achievement.”
Dr. Farina, who is originally from Pennsylvania, attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he received a doctorate degree in biological physical chemistry and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in chemistry. He also holds a school district leadership certification from Immaculata University near Philadelphia, as well as a New York school district administrator certification.
Before his position as administrative consultant, he worked as an assistant superintendent and high school principal in the Garnet Valley School District in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, and as principal of East Hampton High School, a position he left in 2007 to be closer to his family in Pennsylvania. He has two girls, Emily, 12, and Jacqueline, 14.
Dr. Farina said he will begin the search for a new home in Southampton, Bridgehampton or East Hampton immediately.
“I am so excited about this opportunity, and I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “This is a time of great change in our public schools and communities, and I feel privileged to be returning to Long Island and helping lead a strong Southampton Union Free School District to even greater heights.”